~ by Amanda Smith
In writing, there are things we call “weak words”. Words that hinder more than they help. Words that are flabby and unnecessary because they contribute nothing to the writing. If you have ever written anything longer than a grocery list, you know these words well: actually, basically, obviously, really, very, quite well. They jump into every sentence.
We are blind to our own weak words. They often escape our edits until we mindfully weed them out. Here’s the thing, though, when we get out our red pens and purposefully cross out the weak words, our narrative becomes more interesting, more convincing.
There is a weak word that has become the bee in the bonnet of 24 Carrot Writing. During our monthly follow-up meetings, the conversation often went like this:
“This month I just finished my revision, and subbed to three agents, and went to a craft chat.”
“I just wrote a new picture book manuscript and revised two others.”
“I just finished the first draft of a new novel.”
Wait. Say what?
We became acutely aware of how we are undermining our work and worth as writers by using that despicable word. We set our Just-o-meters to high alert and called each other out on it every time. We banned “just” from the meetings, along with his annoying twin, “only”. And we learned to celebrate each of our accomplishments, every goal met.
Recently at a writers and illustrators event my super sensitive Just-o-meter beeped off the charts.
“I just took that one course in illustrating.”
“I just wrote one novel.”
“I’m just researching agents.”
“I just do a sketchbook challenge each day.”
“I write for just an hour in the morning, because I have to go to work.”
Practice with me:
“I wrote one novel.”
“I took a course in illustrating.”
Doesn’t that feel better? Much more affirming, right?
“I do a sketchbook challenge each day, because I am a rock star!”
“I write for an hour before I go to work, because I believe in my dream. Now hand me my superhero cape.”
Now you get it!
If you have plotted out a story, or put words to paper, or created a world, or thought up engaging characters, you have done something. If you have taken classes to learn and hone your craft, you have done something. If you have explored a new medium and made a delightful mess in your studio, even if it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you have done something. If you have spent a whole day chasing a story idea, only to discover at the end of the day that story isn’t yours to write, you have done something. If you have written a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, you have done something. If you have pulled that story apart in a gazillion different ways to make it better, you have done something. If you have drawn up a query letter; if you have pressed that send button; if you have boldly (quivering) sent your creation into this world, you have done something. Don’t just it. Don’t undermine it. Affirm it.
Mindfully weed out the flabby, weak words from your vocabulary. They don’t contribute anything, but devalue your work. In your conversations, give your work a rightful place, then others will take it seriously too. Let your narrative of your work, your passion, and your accomplishments be engaging and convincing.
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