Favourite posts: The Absorption Theory of Word Particles
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This post first appeared on 31 August 2006.
I’d like to think words are little particles swimming among our collective minds waiting for our brains to peel back and trap them like a Venus flytrap lures wiggly flies. Most students would give anything for this to be true. Then books under pillows, sticky with glue, really would trigger osmosis and suddenly tests based on memory would become obsolete. It’s a fantastic thought, really. But perhaps more truth exists in the premise that words float into our conscious every time we read. So maybe instead of you are what you eat, you are what you read.
For example, I deal with the media each day. I follow the news like it’s my job, because, well, it is. Recently I noticed journalists’ propensity to write clichés. Newspapers are littered with them. “Turn a blind eye,” “turned a deaf ear,” and “verge of collapse” hit me like a ton of bricks as I read an article on the turmoil in Sudan. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) I get the fact that liberal cliché use is an easy and quick way to get readers to be on the same page with what you are trying to report. But no wonder so many are unable to write a sentence without relying on the cliché short cut.
As you can see from my last paragraph, my thoughts first turn to clichés too. When I write, I must constantly revamp my initial urge to be clichéd and instead turn to a less lazy phrase. I know I’m not alone in this tendency, but how can I change my ways? It’s not like I can mute the world around me with aluminum foil wrapped around my head.
My latest hope is that if I fill my sponge of a brain with better and more vigorous writing, perhaps lazy and lighter words will sift out of my writing vocabulary. For writers of different genres, maybe my point doesn’t speak to you at first. But I think it should. Lazy word choice is a mere sidestep from boring plots and only an inch away from undeveloped characters.
Hmmmm, I think I’ll test my new theory of word particles and absorption. Tonight, Beloved by Toni Morrison will go under my pillow. I’ll let you know how the trapping goes.