Of the many words I am deeply fond of, there are two in particular that give me pause every time I come across them. The word “Paradox” (a self-contradiction that may turn out to be well-founded) sounds cool, and sort of rolls off your tongue every time you say it out loud. Likewise, the word “Enigma” (something mysterious or difficult to understand) sounds pretty cool and just rolls off your tongue as it passes through your lips.

A while back, beginning a series of essays (yet to be made public), I tripped and fell face-first into an expression I had never come across before, referred to as “enigmatic paradox.” After a quick, lazy (Google) search, I was informed that this is “an expression used to refer to something or someone that is really so puzzling and ambiguous because of their contradictory behavior or features,” and like a lightning bolt of epiphany out of the sky I quickly understood how accurately this describes the very essence of the souls of artists, poets, writers, and every other manner of creators. It certainly does for me, at least.

I have said elsewhere on these pages in the past that I have enjoyed a lifelong obsession with letters and words, dating all the way back to my first memories of elementary school. I frequently use the analogy that I’m like that naked 1-year-old in the high chair, mashing around letters and words like diced spaghetti, and how much joy I get out of squishing them between my fingers and toes and rubbing them all over my face and body. This is not to suggest that I think I’m any good at it, mind you, but that isn’t even the point; I do it because it makes me happy.

I don’t recall ever failing a spelling or vocab test all the way through Elementary School and well into Junior High, no matter how little I cared about the other subjects. This is not a braggadocio thing, I honestly couldn’t have cared less about any of the others back then; words and letters just happened to be my”thing.” In fact, when I signed up for the Spelling Bee Club, I couldn’t have been happier because that experience solidified, and affirmed, if we’re being honest, that I was precisely where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Consider for a moment that competitive sports require practice and exercise, and then imagine what practice and exercise look like to us young nerds working our way toward State competitions for the proper spelling of words. While the athletes were outside running laps and doing push-ups, we were sitting in a classroom reading the entire dictionary from A to Z. Yes, I had to read and memorize the entire damn dictionary; there were no lists of selected words we could anticipate for any future contest so we had to go through the whole thing, studying the spelling, the derivations, the syllable breaks… The whole enchilada. I’ll never forget those kids and the practice competitions between us, or what sore losers any of us were whenever we lost.

The first major turning point in my life as it relates to writing came in my senior year of High School when, after I submitted an essay I’ll never forget (a 2000-word fantasy fiction I crafted about my waking up in my coffin after having been wrongly diagnosed as dead, put in a box, and lowered six feet into the ground). I remember her telling me that I should seriously consider going to college for a literary degree and becoming a writer. A family member I won’t name said that was a terribly stupid idea, that I would spend my life poor and one step away from homeless, and that I needed to get a “real” degree that would earn enough money to live comfortably and retire with some level of moderate wealth.

Begrudgingly acknowledging, in hindsight, that this was sound advice – which I took and became an electrical engineer – I took every opportunity that came my way to write, both in my job(s) and in the blog world once the internet was invented. And even though I carried that monkey (writing) on my back for 30 years, I never ran out of ways to reach over my shoulder once in a while and give him a taste of what we might have otherwise been doing were it not for having to attend to the more immediate real-life matters of feeding, clothing, and sheltering spouses and offspring.

The second and most significant turning point in my life came when I was forced into retirement by the onset of my near-blindness. Many might consider me Daft for saying this, but I consider it the greatest gift I could have ever been given; while it might be true that perfect eyesight is a core requirement for a writer, or a painter, or any other sort of creator, it is the heart and the head, in my opinion, in just the right two-part Harmony (in key or out of key), that allows us to convey our whole inner selves to the world around us.

Two divorces might have separated me from the promise of retiring with moderate wealth, but my 30 years of that “real” job have thus far allowed me to elude being homeless and afforded me the opportunity to finally settle into what I have wanted to do since the idea was first put in my head at the age of 17. As I have said on these pages many times before, I am surrounded by incredible talent, far superior to my own, and with whom I am in no competition; some offer their talent for free, and others are trying to earn a living at it, and I’m just humbly grateful to be allowed a place among them so I can learn and get better at this craft.

Speaking only for myself, quite sure I’m not the only one (based on what I see on this platform every day), I have come to learn that a writer’s mind is in a state of perpetual motion… God knows mine is. When my head hits the pillow, sleep is but an aspiration with no guarantee of when that might actually be achieved.

Once the eyes are closed, letters and words bounce around, smashing off of each other and trying to find their rightful places in the chaotic stream of thought about the next sentence or the next paragraph and all the ways they could be better assembled to get across a point that keeps changing the longer this “war” continues and make so much noise that the hope of actually falling into that restful sleep where the eraser manages to wipe all the words off the chalkboard and allow you room to come up with new ones over coffee in the morning. And is there any better expression that describes this insanity, inside a writer’s mind than “enigmatic paradox”? If you have one, please pass it along to the rest of us.


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