What matters most

These are not my words, but please read on. Links (in red) are quoted text.

To write what matters most is to accept an invitation, an opportunity to return to scenes from our life to ask questions and find some answers. But what happens if the stories we tell ourselves about our lives leave us lonely, wrestling with meaning? What then? What happens if I live in a quiet novel and the novel is about a woman who is even more intimately acquainted with grief than I am? The [novel’s] last line should strike like a lover’s complaint.

This pocket-sized post is the first in a regular Sunday series on commatology: commbistories. My new word riffs off Albert Einstein’s notion of combinatory play, which I learned about last week in Nicole Breit’s fabulous video invitation to her self-paced “Spark Your Story” courses. As Nicole explained it, the idea is to take two unrelated things, bump them together, smush them around, stand back and see what happens. Play with that.

I wondered what kind of magic could happen with five unrelated things.

combinatory play color fusion

Image by Daniele Levis Pelusi

Today’s commbistory combines one sentence each from five unrelated articles I read online this week. Each article is thought provoking and poignant, and inviting you to read them is the point of this word play. The authors of these five intriguing sentences, in order of placement, are:

The images in this post are from Unsplash: a treasure box of freely usable photographs. The feature image of an open heart on the homepage is by Cyrus Gomez of Columbus, Ohio. The image above, which I found when I searched on “fusion,” was created by Daniele Levis Pelusi, an Italian photographer who plays with texture and colour using mostly Fuji cameras. See more of his work here.

I have some qualms about my concept.

First, the extra m in commbistories. My inner stickler wants to insist on combistories—one m—because the word comes from “combine” (from Late Latin combinare “to unite, yoke together,” from Latin com “with, together” + bini “two by two”). But my damn-the-rules creative self likes how the double m echoes commatology. These two parts of me are constantly duking it out. When I created this blog, I didn’t hesitate to take liberties with words. And that won’t change.

But taking liberties with other people’s words can be … theft. That’s why I credited the authors three different ways and stated clearly at the top: These are not my words.

I like the sweet little story that resulted from my combinatory play.

Still, I’m undecided.

    1. Are commbistories intertextuality or plagiarism?
    2. One m or two?

Tell me your thoughts.

10 Responses to “What matters most”

  1. commatologist

    Here’s a great reply to question 1 that came by email:

    1. I think intertextuality… that drawing from another writer’s work, juxtaposing, deconstructing, building something new is useful and valuable to the literary community and not plagiarism. I think of plagiarism as rooted in selfish gain, fraudulent, cheating. What you’re up to is exploratory, creative, sharing with community…

    • commatologist

      Thanks, Karen. I love the idea of a margin so slim it might be imagined. I think I’ve decided on one m. Thanks for weighing in!

  2. The sky above my mother's house - commatology

    […] I swear sometimes my mother brings me art and poems to help me evacuate* feelings I can’t identify. Yesterday she sent me a poem by Jaime Manrique that seemed to be in conversation with an amazing collage by Pnina Vitaly that found me not an hour later. I don’t know if my poem is ekphrastic in the true sense. What I know is that Manrique’s poem and Pnina Vitaly’s collage stayed with me all day, and when I read Michael Meade’s assertion that healing means to make whole, it prompted a question whose answer was this poem. Maybe that makes it a combistory. […]

  3. I forgive you - commatology

    […] have your own book. Writers tend to collect other people’s sentences. I do. This week’s combistory juxtaposes five I encountered online this week. Nudging you to read the pieces I found them in is […]


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