“It’s only words, and words are all I have…” So starts the chorus of the well-worn Bee Gees song. Personally, I’mm not exactly a big fan of the Gibb Brothers music, but this one certainly has its ring when, well, words come to mind. And, yes, that is one thing writers do and should have. Maybe not the only, but certainly the paramount one. In most instances, we use them to express what we are inspired by, but how often do we use them as a source of inspiration?
Starting out at one point as a translator in a quite large translation service, I at one point noticed a colleague who was avidly reading a dictionary, any dictionary, even in her pastime, as if it was a novel that she couldn’t let go until it was finished. At first instance, it seemed like a strange habit, then as an obsession with the work you love. “It’s exciting!” she would say, “not only to get to the source of a word, track the way its meaning changes, but try to project which way its meaning would go.”
These days, trying to use those words and their meaning as a way of expressing yourself, I get the full sense of what my former translating colleague had in mind. And a bit more. Not only does every word in any of those dictionaries have its story that has a fully developed plot line that begs to be written, but each and every one of them can serve as a source of almost limitless inspiration.
You can go back in time or explore an unknown science-fiction territory with each and every one of them — they have their beginnings, their history, they will develop in some direction or other, at some point they will just be forgotten, unused. Still, they will be hidden on one of the thousand pages (online, or those that you really have to turn) ready to be used again. Or researched, developed into a story of their own.
Sometimes it is not only words that you have, but words could be the only thing you need.
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