Words, the power of words and the work of wordsmiths

Ruth HartleyBooks by Ruth Hartley, Creativity, Politics, Power, Religion, Writing Process, Zambia2 Comments

“For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Words and editing

Rain Queen with children in tree

Makemba, the Wise Woman of the Garden with Chipo and Chibwe in the Rainforest. There is a Rainbird, a Honeyguide, and bees in the fig tree. Ruth Hartley

I’m engaged in a major rewrite of my children’s book The Drought Witch. It’s an exciting task expanding a children’s picture book into a novel for 9 to13-year-olds but the interesting work is in the editing and paring down of my words to make them work well. This major commitment is keeping me fully occupied at the moment. I love the way Ursula Le Guin describes writing so she can speak for what I aspire to do. I have been mentored by Sandra Glover, a successful children’s author and consultant arranged by Cornerstones Literary Agency. It’s a good experience and my book is taking shape well.

Chipo and Chibwe, school-children, make a perilous journey through the heart of modern and magical Africa to save their parents’ farm from drought and climate change.

A writer is a person who uses words carefully

Ursula K. Le Guin

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin is an inspiration to me – a political and thoughtful writer. There are many other writers I love too.

Word communicate, name, explain, words are weapons and arbiters

A mixed media drawing in black and yellow charcoal and oil stick shows a human with wings not arms struggling to take flight.

The struggle to fly – one of a series of drawings inspired by the Icarus myth. Ruth Hartley.

“Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.”

—The Creation of Éa
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Words are powerful

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” Genesis 5:1
God also called on Adam to name the animals. (Genesis 20.20) If we can’t name something – or find a word for it – how do we know it?

What is it to be wordless?

Illustrated verse from a poem The Road by Ruth Hartley

Wordless , adjective – speechless, silent, or mute, not put into words; unexpressed.
Related words – incoherent, imperceptible, muffled, bashful, silent, speechless, mum, reticent, restrained, mute, dumb, dazed, amazed, unspoken, indirect, implied, implicit, nameless, latent, tacit.

What is it to be nameless?

Anonymous or one of the missing, the lost, the disappeared, the forgotten, the refugees lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea? Have you ever felt left out – pushed aside – of no importance – ever had your name changed without your consent?

What does it mean to be dyslexic or wordblind?

I love words. I am fortunate not to be dyslexic. Words give me pleasure and speak to me without sound in silent places. I wonder, though, what it is to be from an oral culture? I also wonder about our digital world which is so visual and can go straight to making words audible. I know that digital technology can help people who are dyslexic. Tell me what you think? Tell me your own experiences. Please add your comments below – I do welcome them

2 Comments on “Words, the power of words and the work of wordsmiths”

  1. Jessica Norrie

    I echo your statement : “the interesting work is in the editing and paring down of my words to make them work well”. So many authors moan about editing, but to me it’s the best part of writing and your words here about words themselves bear that out.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Jessica – it’s good to meet somebody else who enjoys it as much as I do. I still find that I need another editor’s eyes on my work though. I miss out on noticing my personal quirks and tricks which can disfigure writing. Do you write a particular genre that you feel needs that care or do you think all genres need the same scrutiny?

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