Smithing the language

April 11, 2011

Language is a living, breathing thing hotter than the mental forge from which it emerges, but it ceases to breathe when cold and dull. The wordsmith must work quickly to ensure that the words plucked from the forge retain their heat. Some are hammered into rough shapes and others are smoothed, stamped and honed. Some become infrastructure for their composition and others define or embellish. Some are tossed back into the fire to be used another time.

Or, we choose words and move them around in a word processing application until we like what we see and what we hear in our head as we read them.

Using language to succinctly convey your thoughts is part of a writing style that develops with practice. Reading and writing are training sessions. Whether reading for enjoyment or attempting to funnel information into your head for a final exam, the mechanics are the same. Your eyes see, and your mind processes and comprehends a portion of what you are reading. It also stores away little bits of style that will affect how you write, and while it is happening you are not even aware of it.

Hence, if you would like to write, you must read, read, and read some more. And you must write often to put into practice the little bits of style your mind has stored for you. Don’t worry about vocabulary; it will come. Don’t worry about length of the composition; it can be expanded. Just write.

It takes twenty exposures to assimilate a word or phrase and 21 days to make a habit. Learn new words and make new habits. Read. Write.

Don’t force it. Let the ideas flow as easily as we free associated to create your pseudonym and giggle if what comes forth is silly. But let it come. Let it come as ideas begin to come when you are preparing to tell a beloved story. Type a few words to begin your story into a document, then surround them with a few more. Words become phrases, which become sentences, which become paragraphs, until your composition is in front of you and the cursor is blinking at you as if to say, “Is that it?”

Read your composition with a mental carving knife. Slice out extraneous words and replace imprecise words with those more fitting. Use a dictionary; use a thesaurus, every time you write. Research, every time you write.  Learn the names Strunk and White and to omit needless words. Learn the rules of grammar and punctuation before you break them. When you do break them, do it spectacularly and with purpose. Love the process of creating something of nothing. Love that it is you who is doing it.

Once you are writing regularly, read some more. Read the work of others and find the mistakes. Read your own work and find the mistakes. Never allow the forge of style to sit unattended. It could become crusty on top and pitch out impure slag such as, ppl wld like to 2 c u writ gd. Yikes.


One comment

  1. I not only am edumacated, I kan spels it. :-)

    So my friend, how many ways can I tell you I love what you write, and still have it sound sincere, for it is sincere, each and every time. More so with each reading, if that be possible. You’re on this Pirate’s list of favorites, written on parchment and staked to the wall in me Captains quarters with a quivering blade of bright steel.

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