I have been afraid of words for most of my life. I thought of words as weapons to be used mainly to cut someone down to size. Yes, I had been taught the regular cliche, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." But the models I saw clearly said just the opposite. If you have something nice to say, keep it to yourself. Only speak up when you are unhappy or upset or (my personal favorite) judging someone else. Do not offer words of kindness or caring or anything even approaching soft understanding. Words should be sharp and cutting. Words shouldn't be wasted on anything silly like emotion.
So I have handled words like hand grenades with the pins pulled. Lobbing them occasionally at family and friends...just to test their strength. Harsh. Crabby. Crusty. Sarcastic. Angry. Loud. Judgmental. These are the words I was most comfortable using. Some of them were strong enough to cause tears. Some of them were brushed off as though they were merely tiny mosquitos flitting near the targets' ears. But always...always intended. Always delivered with careful aim and meant to cause an explosion of one sort or another. Never just expressed without care. Never flung into the air like confetti at a homecoming parade. Never just let out there to fall wherever gravity might take them.
This feeling was certainly reinforced by my education. Honors English. Hours spent analyzing and sorting through the rules and regulations of Poetry, Literature, and Writing. Never reading a poem just for how it feels on the tongue. Never allowing the gutteral reaction to a short story just weigh on your soul. Fragments and clauses and proper punctuation were the ways of the words for me. It was all about the structure and the purpose. It was all about what the author was trying to convey rather than what I saw, thought, or felt while reading anything. It was about finding the meaning written into a piece, maybe centuries ago. It was all about finding the place that the author had taken aim...and deciding whether s/he had hit their target.
I have friends who are poets. My brother-in-law is a writer. My mother used to write (but doesn't anymore). I never understood their desire to write. What is the point of putting words out there without a purpose? I simply never understood the truth behind inspiration. I could not comprehend the need to just purge something out of your soul for your own sake...for the sake of the words themselves.
It has literally taken a loss of control in my life for me to see that not every word spoken or written needs to have a purpose. That words are beautiful for what the create in the reading or the hearing. Words can just settle in...like sand in the cracks of the pavement. Words don't have to have a sharp purpose. They can smooth and soften the edges as well. I need to remember that.