Verbs before nouns
Newsletter: February 2021
Dear web friends
Greetings again and I was talking to an actor the other day. He represents one of the industries hit hardest by Covid, and it’s taking its toll.
‘I’ve got too much time to think,’ he says, ‘but honestly, I don’t know what the word actor means any more. After all, I’m not acting – so what does ‘actor’ mean? And I am aware,’ he adds, ‘there are people out there with worse things to face than my coffee shop existential crisis!’
Maybe. But with acting jobs very few and very far between, and deprived of contact with the theatre community (even auditions are virtual), actors can easily feel isolated, de-skilled and foolish; and they are not alone. Many of us have felt this on giving up a role which has become an important part of our identity. I have known consultants cry when, in retirement, they are no longer consulted; no longer what they were. Or a mother traumatised by her child leaving home, going to uni. ‘Who am I now? I have always been a “mother”.’
I don’t know what labels you attach to yourself when describing your identity; perhaps you resist the temptation. But in this territory, I prefer verbs to nouns – words which describe what we’re doing rather than what we are. So, for our actor friend, we felt ‘acting’ was more helpful than ‘actor’, because he’s still sending in audition tapes, whether he’s getting the jobs or not. His heart is still pointing in that direction. Verbs describe our direction rather than our identity.
So what are you doing? I suppose I’m running, (getting less dark and chill now) laughing, piano-ing (is that a verb?), composing (that is), doubting, writing, raging, counselling (which includes listening, but which is bigger than listening), organising (I have a small business to oversee), delighting (in creation), and wondering – always wondering, because I have no sense of anything beyond tomorrow. And failing, of course, and that’s an important verb, because I am not a failure, as the noun would have me. Failing is something we do because we’re human; it’s not something we are.
I feel happier with verbs as my identity; they are less pompous, more fluid. They say ‘Here is my heart today, the direction of my energies. Though tomorrow, who knows?’
Since I last wrote to you, Gospel: Rumours of Love has appeared. The Church Times even ran with a chapter, which was lovely; and they may go with another at Easter. Probably more hangs on its progress than I care to admit. I’m aware my writing is always on a knife-edge, can easily cease, and my insecure heart find a change of direction; find a different verb to follow. But if the narrative seems worth promoting or mentioning in any way, please do. And if it doesn’t, go wonderfully free of all obligation.
If you haven’t bought a copy, and would like to, the link below is one avenue, though there are many others, of course:
Gospel: Rumours of Love
Half way through writing this (and this is quite true), I received my first direct reader review, via email.
‘I am writing to you having just finished reading Gospel Rumours of Love over the last few days. I am very much still processing and there is much I would like to ask you but for now I will just say that, for me, this is the finest of your writing and one of the (if not just the) most courageous, disturbing, hopeful and life-bringing books that I have read by any author.’
Just occasionally, the writing verb seems worth it.
Wishing you the very best with your own lovely verbs, demanding and courageous.