“Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on.”Ursula K. Le Guin, Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week
I think about words a lot. Words are the atomic unit of writing. I obsess about how to cram an experience, capture the essence of something, get to the elemental idea of a thought, into as few words as possible . Or better, one perfect word, e.g., laconic.
This week I stumbled upon  a wonderful art project, Leaning Out of Windows, a multi-year collaboration between artists at Emily Carr and physicists at the University of British Columbia “to open new pathways for the possibility of a much richer understanding of the human experience than can be attained separately”. I was fascinated to see the words, shared by both disciplines, in a photo of a concept map (one of several products of the art project), created by Ingrid Koenig, mirror the messiness of the creation/discovery/exploratory process.
In her latest book, Essays One, Lydia Davis counsels attentiveness to abstract words, often they disguise a real thing, such as “a herd, a seed, a rodent, a goat”. “Know what that concrete thing is.” This is interesting, from a writing perspective for a number of obvious reasons…but also, if I were to review my own writing—notorious for tracts of conceptual thoughts and reflections, and rife with abstract words—I might discover some underlying feeling, my soul speaking through some imaginative space of authenticity that I need to divine .
Winston Churchill’s essay, The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, lists “the continual employment of the best possible word” as the most important “element in the technique of rhetoric”. [A word] “must in each case absolutely express the full meaning of the speaker. It will leave no room for alternatives.” In this way, poets are masters of language.
But it’s daunting, isn’t it, to find the right word? The best I can hope for is recognition, in my own writing, for when a word is imperfect. That my brain catches the signal there’s more to be unearthed, more digging to be done. Refinement needed. The ripple of a misplaced word in the still waters of a sentence has the potential to wash out the larger piece. I take heart with this quote from Philip Pullman, in Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling “If you want to write something perfect, go for a haiku.” And this one too: “But you just try to do better next time.”
 inner critic notes: well, you failed with that loquacious sentence, didn’t you?!
 I read about it. The show is on in Vancouver later this month for those of you lucky enough to be close to that city. I will have to settle with reading about it and looking at the few pictures of the exhibition posted on the web.
 might be a good exercise to try …exorcise to try?