Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I am not a wordsmith. I do not have a exceptionally strong understanding of the English language, but I do know English is one of the most versatile languages for writers. So many different words and phrases can be used to describe the same thing, each with a subtle difference that brings an incredible richness to this language. The Orwell essay, written more than 60 years ago, prompted some deep reflection about my own use of the language and how often I revert to taking the easy way, instead of taking the time to think and write.
I thought of an experience I had with a friend in discussing the writings of the founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Payne and Benjamin Franklin. They carefully chose words that would be firm and yet leave some room for future interpretation. Had they not mastered the English language would their writings have been so world changing? I don’t think they would have. Statements like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have become a solid foundation for American life and a dream for many others around the world..
In my spare time, when I have some, I like to write songs. About eight years ago I wrote a song for my daughter who at the time was not yet born. I have not done much with it since that time, but recently decided to revise, record, and add some videos of her growing up and give it to her for her birthday. I have a friend with some music writing experience so we decided to work together to arrange the song. During our first visit we worked only on words. He pushed me hard to determine exactly what I was trying to say and then to say it in a way that would flow and not be too wordy. We spent about 4 hours doing small edits and during the next week I spent another 3-4 hours working on my own to create words that would best tell my story to my daughter. It was exhausting work, but in the end, my song was clear, concise, and said just what I wanted it to. What is the point of this story? I learned that if I want to write well I have to be willing to spend the time to make it right and don’t give up on the first draft
Words, especially English words can be used to tell a powerful story that can create real emotion or take readers to a place across the universe. After reading Orwell’s work I have committed myself to use it to its full potential, or at least I will start the process of learning to do so.