I sat down in the break room of my retail gig and pulled my bright green 2” binder from my messenger bag. Over three hundred pages heavy, the binder made a sizable thump on the table. A coworker turned to me.
“Didn’t you already graduate?”
“So what’s that?”
“The novel I’m writing.”
She turns to our other coworkers.
“She says like it’s something everyone does.”
I have always carried a spiral notebook or binder around with me at all times. No one ever asked me about it when I was in school. Now that I’m past my college years, carrying such accessories must be notable to everyone else. Writing has been such a fixture of my existence, I’ve never thought of toting around notebooks as not normal. I have been writing since I was twelve. My best friend also writes and also totes around her own set of notebooks. I lived four years writing with, editing for, and commenting on other writers—the serious, the published, the amateur, and the fanfiction. I cannot imagine being on the other side of the fence, looking in at writers, not understanding their ability to always reach in a pocket or purse and withdraw a handful of pens and pencils. Stationary is akin to proof of life. I cannot picture living my life not being able to grasp in my mind exactly the word that perfectly defines the situations of my day to day happenings.
Apparently these things I take for granted are not “normal” and therefore I cannot consider them universal, even if by these method of living I have come to better understand the universal human condition, have learned to empathize with other human beings on deeper levels, and have acquired techniques of manipulating these building blocks that allow the transport of thoughts from one mind to another though time and space. Words have always awed and humbled me. A word can convey much, and the correct word a hundredfold of that. This need to select the proper word has forced me to acquire vocabularies for multiple languages for there are words in other languages that take full sentences in English to explain.
If the need and action of conveying stories through words is not normal to humans, then nothing about being a human that uses words at all is “normal”. Words exist so we can communicate stories! Thinking this way I suppose is the point where I can draw the line I crossed into “not normal”. Words cost nothing, especially now, when at any moment millions more are flooding the internet, each shouting for attention, each repeated use changing words in way that it some times makes it impossible for other, older generations of readers to understand for all the acronyms and shorthand. Yet, the fact I carry and edit three hundred pages of my own story seems unnatural.
Moral of the Day
It is in this age, I feel, we need respect words more than ever. Once there was no punctuation, no specialized capitalization, and no separation between words. The mystery of meaning was left to the readers to solve, a puzzle which rewarded knowledge and understanding. The public square chatter now existing in black and white has given way to a break down of respect of the written word: for the rules, the effort required to learn and execute them properly, and those that quest for transparency between minds. It’s not just out of respect for the words, but for those that will read them. As a dedicated writer, I want everyone in every generation to understand me, take me seriously, and pay attention to my voice. Writing well accomplishes this feat. A clear voice floats above the din that internet has become.
Always take care in your words: your choice, your spelling, and your grammar. You have a story to tell the world, even if it is the small story of that thing that happened on your lunch break at work. So for the love of words and readers, tell it with precision, clarity, and respect.