A Word Or Two Among Friends (ms)

Words mean a lot. I know the truth behind that statement for I have spent most of my working life searching for just the right word to convey what I want to say. I like to think I’ve been successful at it but overall I haven’t though there have been moments. In reality the right word is an elusive item that can remain hidden for all time in the pages of a dictionary or thesaurus. The writer or speakers job is to look for it and never stop looking for it.

In a days work I probably put down five hundred words on average. This piece will be about that so you can get a reference point. An experienced editor could likely rip it to shreds, throwing out words then adding a few more with me cringing at each swipe of the blue editor’s pencil on paper or the push of the delete key. The finished edited piece would likely be a ghost of it’s former self at least so far as I am concerned but probably better. Well, there is something to be learned from each experience, isn’t there.

It seems to me that many of todays writers haven’t really learned a lot from such experiences. Maybe there has never been an editor in their lives to do the teaching. Old newspaper guys made the best editor/teachers in my estimation though I’ve met a few who came close in television. Those old boys could go through a couple blue pencils per shift all the while wielding a gruff manner that brooked no back talk unless you had spent something near their time in the news business. They were guys who made a career out of humbling a reporter by demanding facts to back up what was on paper and the proper words to say them correctly.

I have read enough stuff on the Web to know that while only a bare handful of us can become brain surgeons, almost everyone capable of pushing a key on a computer can become a writer. Before you come down on me like a ton of bricks let me say that I am merely a journeyman writer and never expect to reach the level of master but I am okay with that. I think I take a fair shot at the craft and have enough moments to let me know I am on the right road. Good thing I had decent editors along the way to mark the sign posts.

Anyway, what it comes down to is that when you lower the bar you set a new standard. Keep lowering the bar and before long the standard is mediocrity and no one coming along in our business sees a need to rise above it. Why should they? If so-and-so made it why can’t I? In a generation or two you have a bunch of mediocre writers which will be okay because by then there will be a bunch of mediocre readers unable or unwilling to ask for something better, more creative, more entertaining or intelligent. Something with the right words.

–Mike Stevens

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~ by admin on March 10, 2011.

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