My daughter has a thing for words said out loud. It might be that, at eight, she has a power to make anything fun. But I think it’s more than that.
Hearing her play with these words in her mouth, rolling them around and laughing with them. Well it’s just joy.
Are we a family of logophiles? Possibly. Of bibliophiles? Probably.
Among her favorites:
purple clams (PER-puhl KLAMS)
Me? Certain words charm me. I confess, I am a word junkie.
I love how they look in long-hand, weaving their ways with my hand chasing their inevitable path. Loopy and rounded, layered and tasty. The whole experience of writing, listening to my archival ink pen dig across the notebook paper, the smooth takeoff trail at the end. Mesmerizing.
To all the words I’ve loved before: whimsy, glance, glimpse, feather, gallop, swing, brackish, glimmer, puzzle, jigsaw, purple, giddy, freckle, oyster, leaf, barnacle, vein, thunder, reverb, punctual, longing, crushing… and so many more.
I love selecting the words that best capture my thought, my feeling, or a situation. The living well of generations of writers and teachers and professors, I’ve been trained well. The lessons sunk in after years of my Oma returning my weekly letters, marked up with red pen.
“You’re so dramatic, Allison.” Yes I’ve heard that. But it’s not true. I simply tend to use the word that best captures my meaning. I don’t say “I’m so mad” when I’m perplexed and frustrated. I don’t say “he’s so happy” when he’s exuberant. “So” is a word for lazybones.
Despite my many attempts, I cannot find the English word for a love of the spoken word or a love of curvise writing or long-hand writing or even calligraphy. No doubt there is a word in another more descriptive language. Perhaps Cantonese or Spanish?
The Arabic poet Abu Hilal al-‘Askari wrote (in the tenth century) of the written word, acknowledging and even glorifying its purpose:
Writing brings reason to unstructured words,
Script is the thread that weaves wisdom.
Writing sets down every thought in prose,
And strings lines of poetry’s pearls.
What we learn from the greats, past and modern, is this.
Words matter. What you say can have power. What you want to say needs to connect. It needs to land. It needs to tickle my heart and squeeze me tight.
I mostly say, you just have to write. Writer’s block is not a real thing. If you’re thinking, you can write. But writing isn’t enough.
Josh Spector did all of us a favor by defining the words to eliminate from our writing. Words that slow us down. Words that don’t add value. Words like that.
We need to feel you in your words.
Well-chosen words, carefully selected, not necessarily 50-cent SAT words, but the words that capture your meaning and therefore lasso us.
This is true of literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, prose poetry, marketing copy, social media posts, and everything in between. Great Twitter posts, great essays, and even great hip hop lyrics share the same elements. They make us think. They land. Your words matter, and what you choose to share with me can snare our souls.
This is what I offer you.
Write what you love, what you’re thinking, what you’re hoping, what you hate, what you see, what you fear, and what you know.
Chances are, your words will catch me too.