This morning I am thinking about words.
I’ve written about 700,000 words worth of books, over five (longish) novels. I’ve no doubt I’ve written twice that in blogs and essays and book reviews, and probably its equal again in journals and diaries, notes and letters and the various ephemeral thoughts that find their way onto paper. That means I’ve written somewhere above 3,000,000 words in my lifetime.
How many of them were the right word? The best word? Twain said that the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning-bug, and nobody has said it better. Not all of mine are the best words, not by any stretch; but I think some of them have been. Sometimes. and even where they weren’t the perfect word, the best word, quite a few of them have been good words. And when the total is 3,000,000 words, “quite a few” — well, that’s something. It’s something.
I wonder how many people have read my words. I’ve read my essays to students for as long as I’ve been teaching, and sometimes my short stories or even an excerpt from one of my books; that’s around 3,000 students over the last twenty years. Three thousand people. And of course, I’ve written notes and comments and such on their work, and answered their questions and concerns in emails now to the tune of thousands of words, tens of thousands of words. I’ve never sold a lot of books, but I have sold some, and I’ve had blogs, with some number of readers, for more than a decade.
How many times have my words made people smile? Made them widen their eyes? Made them feel angry, or sad, or touched? How many times have my thoughts made someone else think something truly powerful, a sky-shattering inspiration, a ground-shaking memory, a tidal wave of thoughts?
I think those things have already happened. I think I’ve done them several times. I have. With my words.
This morning, I’m proud of that.
This morning, I hope I get to do it more, and more, and more.