Do words matter?
December 4, 2014
It is easy to believe words don’t matter.
In a world where instant gratification and selfies rule, we seldom have time for cool reflection, meaningful introspection on the whys of life.
That’s a shame.
It’s a shame because things that matter take a long time to ferment, to percolate beneath the surface, to morph into their mature form.
So it is with words.
Anyone who has experience putting words on paper can crank them out right and left. She can create a scene out of nothing, NaNoWriMo (that’s the first time I ever used it as a verb) 1,500 words in a matter of minutes.
I’m not slamming NaNoWriMo.
It has its place.
It’s the home of first drafts that need to be written, a sanctuary built out of an intense desire to bring to life a literary work that has lurked in the shadows perhaps for years.
It is always possible that from a month of torrid writing a masterpiece will emerge full-blown.
But it could happen.
For most of us writers though a mature piece of work is more like a sculpture where one takes a chisel in hand, strikes a few blows, puts the hammer on the table and steps back to inspect the figure yet to emerge. A chisel strike here, a polish there, a sideways glance as something not seen before begins to take shape.
Words do matter.
How many times have we said something in anger we could never take back, something that haunts us the rest of our lives, does irreparable harm to us or a loved one or a stranger?
Just as ill-advised words spoken in haste and anger cut people to the bone, words shaped with love and beauty and wisdom can heal and inspire and provoke profound thought.
Although we often praise the sword, we do so knowing in our heart of hearts the pen is mightier. Although we glorify greed, we yearn for an example of genuine sacrifice. Although we relish a fight scene, a pistol shot, we still hope somewhere a poet sits alone and dashes a few lines on a scrap of paper, lines that make us pause for a moment to think how things could have been, or may be yet.
A writer should never forget the power of words. Perhaps when she next sits at her desk, she will channel thoughts like those contained in a letter from a jail in Birmingham, or from a railroad car on the way to a cemetery in Gettysburg, or in a lonely hut on the isle of Patmos.