Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why am I still fumbling for words?

A couple of times, when I’ve mentioned a recent publishing success, or I’ve written something that touched people, someone has made a comment that my blog is not aptly named and that I am not “fumbling for words”.

Let me explain why I chose to name the blog as I did, even though I make my living as a professional communicator, have always loved to string words together, do a fair bit of public speaking, and am lucky enough to have my writing published now and then.

You see, even though words are some of my closest companions, I often feel that they continue to be seductively illusive. Almost every time I write something, or speak in public, I feel like the right words are at the tip of my tongue/pen - just out of grasp. When I reach for them, they taunt me. “Nya, nya,” they say, “you THINK you’ve got the right turn of phrase, but we’ve got a better one and you can’t have it!” In the absence of the perfect words, therefore, I fumble for the adequate words.

In our office, a bunch of people do crossword puzzles together. When I started working here, they thought for SURE I’d make a valuable contribution to the crosswords because I’m a writer and therefore MUST be good at finding words. It didn’t take long, though, for them to discover that I SUCK at crosswords. When it comes to crosswords, I am definitely fumbling for words.

Sometimes, I have completely dumb moments and use entirely the wrong word. It’s usually when I’m trying to “act” smart, and use a word I think I understand the meaning of but don’t really. Like the other day, when I defined something as “pedagogical” when what I really meant was “pedantic”. The person I was speaking to, who often uses the word pedagogical in the right context, gave me a funny look and I only realized later, when it dawned on me what I’d said, why. Yes, in those contexts, I fumble for words.

My family has a good chuckle now and then, when I act like the ditzy sister and say completely inane things. (I seem to recall some teasing over my use of the word “vignette”.) In those moments, I am indeed fumbling for words.

When I read something that’s stunningly brilliant, with just the right combination of words to convey emotion, beauty, or truth, I feel completely inadequate in my humble attempts. In those moments, when I compare myself to others, I feel that I am doing little more than fumbling for words.

So you see, even though I sometimes get it right, it’s usually because I’ve set aside the taunting of the “perfect words”, have accepted the words that are “good enough”, have chosen to ignore the niggling voice of self-doubt that threatens to silence me, and have decided that my fumbled words have enough meaning and beauty to be a worthy offering to the world. I continue to believe that words, well used, can make the world a better place. And even those of us who are still fumbling have something of value to contribute.

No, I won’t be changing the name of my blog any time soon.

I'm still fumbling.


Hope said...

I also fumble to describe how I want, so I can share things as i see them. The perfect phrase often eludes me, either that or I've spelled it so badly and even spell check can't help me out.The limits of the written language often frustrate me because the visual part of communucation is not their. When i communicate I like doing it face to face, so that gestures ad expresses will compliment and clarify what I want to get across.
I think we all fumble for words.
The name of your blog is one of the reasons I stopped in.

oshee said...

I think the more words I learn, the more I forget. I have a hard time find the phrase or word I want sometimes. I know there is a word that fits perfectily, I just can't think of it at the moment.

I love the name of your blog.

Anvilcloud said...

I think a whole lot of us fumble around. Some don't though; sometimes, the comments that I receive to a blog are much more ... hmmm ... fumble fumble ... trenchant and perspicacious than the blog that I laboured over. I hate it when that happens! :)

I have a a smart BIL who has mistaken pedagogue and pedant, but I have never pointed it out to him. That's very good of me. You'd have to know him to understand.

However, when you said, "they continue to be seductively illusive, rather than elusive, I thought it so appropriate to the post that I thought I would share it with you. I have a feeling that you won't mind. :)

Heather said...

Hahahaha AC - what a great catch in a painfully appropriate way! I'm gonna leave that one in there 'cause it's rather delicious. Just another example of me fumblin'.

The fact that you can use "perspicacious" in a sentence leaves me in awe of your grasp of the English language. The rest of us probably wouldn't even be able to tell you if you used it in the wrong context!

judy said...

Well then, I'll relax.

Good to know the 'professionals' still fumble.

Dale said...

I too, love words. And I fumble as well. Words are indeed powerful and I'm learning just how powerful they can be when used skillfully. But I'm also learning that silence can be just as effective. Because sometimes, Heather, in some situations, words are inadequate.


Stephanie said...

It certainly seems that the more language we acquire, and the "smarter" we ought to be in communicating ourselves, the more elusive it gets in saying the right thing.

I'm fumbling a lot right now because I'm trying to write a paper (and had to take a break to visit here since I haven't been ALL week. boo.).

Linda said...

Okay. I've got to get my dictionary out again. Keep fumblin' Heather!