I have a love-hate relationship with words.
I can spend several minutes searching for just exactly the right one to insert into a sentence. I stare at the computer monitor. I get up and pace around. I come back and sit down to stare at the screen some more. I hesitantly tap a key or two. The word starts to take shape, aligning nicely with whatever I’m trying to say, but then somebody deep in my brain screams, “No!!!” I quickly backspace the letters out again. I’m not sure who’s back there, making all that commotion, but I do know I don’t want to piss them off.
Finally, after much anguish and searching, I stumble across a word that seems ideally suited to communicating what it is I want to say, and I insert it. Good. I’m satisfied. That voice in the back hallway of my head also seems satisfied. Or maybe it just got distracted by some bright, shiny object or something, and hasn’t really noticed yet. But it isn’t saying anything, at any rate.
And the writing continues.
A day or so later, I come back and re-read that passage. Now that word seems absolutely wrong. How did I ever think it belonged there? I’m even mad at the voice in the back of my brain, for not saying something when it had the chance. I want to say to it, “If you think this is so damn easy, you come up here and do the writing, and I’ll sit back and criticize whatever you come up with!”
(It’s just possible that I have bigger problems than deciding what word to use. But that’s a blog for another day.)
I think anyone who writes–wait, let me correct that–anyone who enjoys writing, faces this challenge. Words are so much more than words. Used precisely, and exactly where they belong, they are emotions. They do more than speed a story along; they color it, make a reader feel something more than is actually on the page. Words have such power to influence or to distract.
And the best ones don’t even allow you to notice them. They’re just there, doing their job, taking no credit whatsoever for pulling you so completely into the tale they’re weaving.
That is when I most love them.
I have to go, now. That voice in the back of my head is yammering about something. I probably left the mayonnaise out on the counter, or I forgot to put the toilet seat down again.