As a writer I struggle often with word choice and feel as if the language I am using is bland or ineffective. It often leads me to writer’s block or stalling on projects I once felt vast passion for. So I decided that I needed to approach this problem from a different angle. I needed to figure out what words meant to others.
People often talk about how a story or quote truly shaped their way of thinking or gave them a new outlook on their own morals. So I sought out several stories of how words affected people and why certain word choice mattered and what it represented.
This task led me to the podcast This American Life which offered up several examples of what I was looking for. First I listened to ‘Everyone’s a Critic’ that demonstrated the negative effect words can have on some people. It delved into an Author’s struggle with Amazon comments, and how a member of the Baptist church became upset with the concept of Yelp reviews bashing her place of worship. Being totally unaware that you could even rate places of worship, let alone be so crude in describing the experience of one truly made me reconsider word choice responsibility.
The episode then goes on to detail a Chinese man’s struggle of trying to remain neutral in his social postings about Chinese events. He finds himself becoming agitated by the government and can’t hold back his critical words. This leads to adverse circumstances that made me consider how much others can really find offense in words of dissent.
I then moved on to another episode entitled ‘Last Words’. Love became the underlying focus of this episode as it detailed a relationship of two lovers that met a similar end that one of the partners predicted. It showed the sincerity that people can put behind the words they use. How one person could tell others their own truth and have it come into fruition.
The episode then took a turn into how airplane pilots react in their final moments when facing tragedy. One pilot focused on getting his message of affection across while others simply met their end with utter bewilderment. People want their lives to be remembered for the good they did. They find that what they choose to say on the way out can define the entirety. My issue of figuring out how to phrase my writing seemed unsubstantial to the idea that I may only have one last chance to get across the defining message of my life. It seems unfathomable.
Finally, I listened to the story of a girl of Pakistani descent in the episode ‘The Weight of Words‘. She found the strength to persevere through adverse circumstances by finding comfort in the book Little Women. She learned the way of life she wanted to chase and strive for even though it seemed impossible. It showed me the value people can find in the writings of others and how they can relate themselves to the characters on a personal level. It made me want to commit to polishing my characters so that others could maybe find the same comfort in my writing.
All of these stories developed my concept of word choice to be more than just trying to write something eloquently, your words have to truly mean what they say, no filler, just true to you and the story. That is how others will find themselves wanting to quote your words and find themselves lost in your writing.
Glass, Baker, Drumming, & Calhoun. (2019, November 18). The weight of words. Retrieved April 07, 2020, from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/680/the-weight-of-words
Glass, I., Parker, B. A., Fan, J., & Misitzis, L. (2020, March 30). Everyone’s a Critic. Retrieved from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/695/everyones-a-critic
Glass, I., Vowell, S., Sante, L., & Wolff, T. (2018, January 31). Last Words. Retrieved from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/114/last-words
All images used are in the public domain.
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