The Comma


What does a comma do.

I have refused them so often and left them out so much and did without them so continually that I have come finally to be indifferent to them. I do not care whether you put them in or not but for a long time I felt very definitely about them and would have nothing to do with them.

As I say commas are servile and have no life of their own, and their use is not a use, it is a way of replacing one's own interest and I do decidedly like to like my own interest my own interest in what I am doing. A comma by helping you along holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it and to me for many years and I still do feel that way about it only now I do not pay as much attention to them, the use of them was positively degrading.

When it gets really difficult you want to disentangle rather than to cut the knot, at least so anybody feels who is working with any thread, so anybody feels who is working with any tool so anybody feels who is writing any sentence or reading it after it has been written. And what does a comma do, a comma does nothing but make easy a thing that if you like it enough is easy enough without the comma. A long complicated sentence should force itself upon you, make you know yourself knowing it and the comma, well at the most the comma is a poor period that lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath. It is not like stopping altogether which is what a period does stopping altogether has something to do with going on, but taking a breath well you are always taking a breath and why emphasize one breath rather than another breath. Anyway that is the way I felt about it and I felt that about it very very strongly. And so I almost never used a comma. The longer, the more complicated the sentence the greater number of the same kinds of words I had following one after another, the more the very many more I had of them the more I felt the passionate need of their taking care of themselves by themselves and not helping them, and thereby enfeebling them by putting in a comma.

Gertrude Stein

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Back to that essential schizo I come around to thinking every now and then my relationship issues are not actually due to letting the other see my depressed side it's the shock of their realization when they see the two very different personalities of the public face of calm competence and the angry anxious tortured soul that waits for the apocalypse he knows is coming, sees the inanity of the people around him and lets down around the loved one expecting acceptance when all they want is to be one of the ones who gets to have that calm person who will support them above all others. - Larry Fallon

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Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

You will write if you write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery, which is to say that creation must take place between the pen and the paper, not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting. Yes, before in a thought, but not in careful thinking. It will come if it is there and if you will let it come, and if you have anything you will get a sudden creative recognition. You won’t know how was, even what it is, but it will be creation if it came out the pen and out of you and not out of an architectural drawing of the thing you are doing. - Gertrude Stein