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“Every word is a messenger. Some have wings; some are filled with fire; some are filled with death.” — Mary Oliver, Sand Dabs, Six

“A word is no light matter. Words have with truth been called fossil poetry, each, that is, a symbol of a creative thought.” — Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way

Some of us admit to being word geeks. It’s not the complexity of the word, not even its origin (itself a delicious riddle), but the meaning packed into the deliberate placement of that word that draws us in. We become more deliberate readers as a result. This is where the magic in poetry, in music, and in prose resides. Surely something to aspire to in our own writing, and in our very conversations. Words matter a great deal.

When someone says they would like to have a word with you, why does it have a negative connotation? Is it the singularity inferred in the statement? It’s not a conversation, it’s a word. What they mean, of course, is they want to tell you something while you actively listen to them. We have two ears and one mouth: we should always be actively listening more than we talk. The loudest talkers are rarely the most powerful people in the room, would you agree? We should learn to find the clues hidden in plain sight. Active listening is a superpower.

As it is with people, so too with words. If writing has taught me anything, it’s to read more deliberately. Every word, placed just so, means something to a great author or poet. So it should mean something to us.

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