Words Are Currency
We desperately try to hold on to them when writer’s block strikes and we find ourselves bankrupt of words.
We lavish them freely upon the blank page when we are wealthy in possessing the best of them.
Words belong exclusively to no-one. We all have a claim to make upon them.
Used effectively, they can catapult us to the highest of heights: promotion, new job, new relationship, a marriage, a deepening friendship…
Words can also shove their lolloping size twelves in with reckless abandon: getting fired, demotion, remaining jobless, relationship break up, an unforgiving groom when you use your ex’s name in the wedding vows (not my true story!), a severed friendship…
In the complicated lives we lead, words can create a deficit or a windfall.
The Power of Words to Hurt the Writer and the Reader
Words can be a writer’s enemy as well as their friend. We can find ourselves bystanders to the horror of suppressed painful memories, spilling from our minds and onto the page. We sit back, watching the car crash of our griefs, hurts and traumas manifesting through a collection of words.
Written words often reveal what no longer desires to remain hidden. Your protagonist endures through crippling depression and you literally fall to your knees, sobbing alongside them (an actual true story).
The reader can sit long after the novel has finished, grieving the character who slipped slowly to a death they never saw coming. A collection of words holds the power to create this stasis.
The writer who formed the sentences, and the reader who has been tapped on the shoulder and encouraged to acknowledge them, will never be the same for the seemingly simple employment of a set of words.
Never underestimate the power of words to hurt you.
The Power of Words to Hurt Us all
We live distinct lives, but I can state with confidence that we have all heard words that have pierced our hearts.
I’m sure many of us can recall words fired at us in times of trauma and misfortune:
‘You don’t have much time left.’
‘I am sorry to have to tell you that…’
‘I’m not in love with you anymore.’
‘You’re worthless/stupid/ugly/a waste of space/fat/unlovable…’ etc
‘It’s your fault.’
Words that have the power to hurt can be uttered with malicious intent or carelessness. Our larynx, tongue and lips, along with a pen or keyboard, have the potential to inflict pain.
I know I am walking this earth, oblivious of the damage that my words may have done because the recipient(s) of them are holding them as their own. What a burdensome responsibility to bear in a paradoxical ignorant bliss.
The Power of Words to Fail Us as Writers
It may appear odd to state that the words that just won’t come also have power, but they do. Words can retreat to a hiding place in our minds where they defiantly remain.
The writer strives to connect with the reader through their words. It is when the ‘right’ words will not come that one of a writer’s largest fears strikes; word redundancy.
Writing is a writer’s responsibility to their readers. With every chosen word, the writer sends messages to the recipient reader.
No chats can be held to provide explanations, or to check that the meaning has been interpreted in the manner in which it was originally intended.
Many a writer has sat at their desk, head in hands, summoning the gods of ‘All the Right Words’ and finding their pleas unanswered. This may sound like ‘airy fairy’ business to those who don’t write. We all use words every day after all.
Compare it to another job.
If you’re a plumber and you don’t have the right tools to fix a toilet, you’re literally going to find yourself in the shit.
If you’re a call centre operator and you lose your voice, that call is going to result in an irate cusromer.
If you’re a teacher and you have no work prepared for your class, you could probably blag it once *glosses over this quickly due to past role as a teacher* but you won’t be able to keep that up for weeks without having a breakdown or inciting a rebellion.
The tools of your trade attribute to the success of your work. A writer’s fundamental tools are words. If we cannot find them in the toolkit or they are faulty, we are doomed.
We then become fat from comfort eating, blind from daily 14 hour Netflix binges, and hate everyone who posts their NaNoWriMo daily word counts on social media. But enough about me…
The Power of Words to Fail Us All
On a universal level, we have all been in situations, both funny and sad, when either the right words don’t come or they ‘do one’.
You know those moments, when some arsehat goes way ‘out there’ on Facebook with a post, a person says something shocking or you witness something so hilariously dreadful on You Tube that you feel like your retinas have been burned? The WTF moments.
My personal recent ‘favourite’ is being told by a vet, who had examined my kitten a few times previously, that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’. This is after a good feeling up of ‘his’ phantom plums and a breeder adamant that the cat was a male. I am signing them both up for a series of online Biology courses as I write.
Words certainly went on holiday when my husband phoned to give me the news. He was actually more worried that I’d shut my gob for once than been shocked by ‘Cat-missing-nads-gate’.
Fear not. I’ve since rediscovered words enough to perform the Google search, ‘Wonder Woman and Princess Leia cat costumes’. Every cloud…
Job interview, presentation, first date, Best Man’s speech… you know the drill. There’s nothing like how nerves loosen your bowels and also cause your words to dribble away to show how words fail us.
You may have compiled beautifully highlighted index cards. However, those pesky words will rearrange themselves into a blurry mess right in front of your scared eyes.
F***ing Awful Moments
When badness strikes and you desperately need words to offer comfort, love, care or consolation, this is when words often fly away.
I don’t know about you, but I have never felt as helpless as when I hear of another person’s misfortune or tragedy and I cannot think of the ‘right’ thing to say. Thankfully, but unfortunately due to too much experience of this, I have learned a valuable lesson.
No collection of words whatsoever will ever completely fix a bad situation.
No set of spoken sounds will make a tragic situation change.
Admitting to someone you care about that you don’t know what to say, and don’t have the answers, is tough. However, there is no shame in admitting that words have failed us and because of this we feel like we are failing others too. We haven’t. With that seemingly helpless declaration, we have used words powerfully to say that we are present and trust silent companionship to be enough.
I’d fix so much right now if could be achieved by opening my mouth or tapping away at a keyboard. If words could save lives, I would let them continuously flow.
Words as Both a Hindrance and a Help
This post has been rather deep. I may not be my usual witty self (allow me my self-delusion). I make no apologies for that.
Life is bloody tough sometimes and difficulties can be exacerbated by words either formulating into a jumbled, potentially damaging mess, or by rendering us speechless.
This post is actually a celebration of words. They are incredible in how they can alter lives for better or worse.
Words are amazing. After all, what else, apart from love, do you know that is so powerful in its misuse, absence or rightful direction?