I stumbled across an excellent series a few weeks ago. Brian Volck--writer, teacher, pediatrician, advocate, and speaker--wrote about caring for words during the Twelve Days of Christmas and on Epiphany. In each post, he introduces an idea connected to the topic and adds a few quotes from a diverse range of authors. I have returned to these posts almost every day since I discovered Volck's website. I take a little more in each time I visit. I read and wonder and nod my head in agreement.
Here is a taste of what you will find in Volck's series:
Here's Volck on precision in Caring for Words, XI: The Right Word:
There is no clarity without precision. Clear sentences, like clear windows, are not ends in themselves. We polish windows in order to see better through them. We polish prose for the same reason. In any revision worth doing, the writer learns something along the way, and hopes to lead her reader to a similar discovery. Why else would we write? Why else do we read?
I love this. When I meet the precise word I've been searching for (that's what it feels like sometimes--like a meeting with someone I've heard about and thought about but now finally see and know) the sentence and paragraph and sometimes even the whole page will become more of what they're supposed to be. All because of one word.
And here he is on the fickleness of words in Caring for Words, II: Quantum Uncertainty:
Words, like quantum particles, will not be pinned down. However meticulously you fix them in the arc of a sentence, they quiver and jump the moment you turn away. They’re fickle and unruly even when you care what – and how – they mean. It’s this quantum uncertainty that makes metaphor at once surprising and fitting, as long as one maintains, in the words of Wendell Berry, “…a humorous intelligence, always mindful of the exact limits in within which the comparison is meaningful."
Mystery and metaphor--so good.
Volck's ponderings on language, reading, and writing are nourishment for my soul. I reached out to him to see if he could share a bit about what he learned from writing his Caring for Words series. You can hear his response on the second episode of the Story Cures Podcast here.