Before I head out of town for a couple of weeks away, I’ll check my calendar for writing deadlines. And so it’s not uncommon for me to write a post for, say The Muffin, two, three, even four weeks out.
That was the case for this latest one, “The Importance of a Word.” I wrote it, scheduled it, and then forgot all about it. And then tragic events happened, and I couldn’t help thinking of my post and a word that has sparked national controversy, not to mention grave importance in this country.
No matter the platform–social media, a blog post, a letter to the editor–words spread rapidly. And just to be clear, I’m not preaching about the rightness or wrongness of your words or your beliefs. I’m just asking that you be mindful of what you write and put out in the world. That the next time you’re writing and shrug, “Well, it’s just a word,” I hope you’ll stop and remember how my mother set me straight.
It’s almost always more than “just a word.”
True confession: I did not always want to be a writer. I was not one of those kids who scribbled stories all the livelong day. I was one of those kids who read stories. And books, poetry, comics, Mad Magazine and the back of the cereal box. I loved words; I ate ’em up like …well, sugar-coated cereal.
And I collected words, especially from songs. Sometimes, it would be a single word (I learned “syncopation” from The Music Man) and sometimes, it would be a funny phrase (Like Funiculi, Funicula. I only know the English words to that song, but turns out it’s Italian. Who knew?). I kept all these words in my head until it finally ocurred to me that I could write them down. Then, when I needed a word lift, I’d go to my notebook and read a poem or a quote or sing my favorite song lyrics.
I cannot tell you how many times I sat, listening to the same song over and over again, so I could get every single word copied down. Or how I would have to pay overdue fines because I’d checked out a book of poetry and hadn’t written down all of my favorite poems. I’d tear lines out of our Reader’s Digest or scribble a phrase on a piece of paper. Even now, I’ll write down a phrase or a line, or even a paragraph that pleases me, but I hardly ever tear something out of a magazine (Okay, that’s not true. But they’re my magazines, so it’s okay.).
And then, wham! The truth dawned on me today, as I was thinking of what to write on Valentine’s Day. The longest love affair of my life has been with words. But honestly, the Beneficent Mr. Hall runs a very close second.