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.