Words Are Little Suitcases
I see words as little suitcases, each surrounded by a nebula of meaning. This is why I love using them.
There might be synonyms. Nevertheless, each word has its own subtle meaning. Softly, each one of them whispers specific ideas, concepts, feelings.
Each word feels like opening a suitcase and falling onto a unique combination of ideas. A singular nebula of meaning.
Choosing the right word
Whether in writing or orally, choosing the right word, the one that truly translates what’s in one’s mind, can be as much a game as it is a challenge. It can get very frustrating. Sometimes, you feel that the word you have in your mind could suit the situation, but as an oversized hoodie, when you would like it to be a wetsuit.
However, when you finally get your hands on it, it’s liberating. To me, it feels like I’ve opened the door to my mind. That the message I wanted to convey is crystal-clear.
Here lies one of word’s powers. Words are alive. They take you into their world and fill the human connection channel with ideas, thoughts, concepts, notions, sentiments, abstractions, images, feelings.
Feelings. This word created a spark in my mind. As if I had finally found out the very specific word that totally illustrated the way I perceive words.
I am convinced that, deep down, you know it when you have caught the right word. It makes a spark.
This is why words need and deserve to be chosen very wisely. Communication, especially between human beings, is highly fragile. It is based on many factors, such as voice intonation, facial expression, posture, but words play an important role too.
I’ve experienced many delicate situations in the past when having sensitive conversations. I choose one word too quickly, and here came the drama. The person I had in front of me was hurt. And it was my fault. Using this word over another, I conveyed a subtly different idea than the one I wanted to transmit. But it was too late. The idea was into the other person’s mind. All I could say could hardly make a difference.
Several similar situations led me to make a decision: I promised myself that from now on, I would keep silent until I found the right way to express my thoughts. Whether in writing or orally.
Refusing to settle for the weak word
See how subtle they are. When you look at something, you can rather watch, browse, gaze, observe, stare, glance…
Watch conveys an idea of purpose, browse suggests scanning, gaze is dreamy, observe is attentive, stare is insistent, glance is quick, and so on…
There is a word for almost everything. And when no word truly suits your feeling, you can mix several of them.
In this example, look seems pretty weak compared to the world of possibilities. I’ll end up my stream of thoughts on this piece of advice that I try to apply to myself on a daily basis: as a writer, refuse to settle for the weak words. Ban generic words such as say, look, do, and so on. Instead, probe your intent, and make a point in transmitting the exact feeling that you want to convey.