I read a while back, when I was getting into writing more seriously, that the serious writer should beware of overusing the thesaurus function on their computer. The implication was that, if you were a writer of worth, you wouldn’t need to. Well actually, maybe I’ve just backed myself into a corner and proved his point. But his insinuation was that you should be clever enough to think of the word for yourself and that if you didn’t you would never be a writer of worth. I don’t remember who the worthy pundit of this advice was so I may well be ignoring one of the most acclaimed writers (authors, essayists, critics) on the planet for all I know.
But you know how it is when you are writing something and you have the sense of the word, the feeling of it, coming into focus and then fading again. It’s on the tip of the tongue, that is, you can almost taste it, then you get a whiff of it and off it goes. For me, its a vague space up near my chest, nervous energy in my fingers.
So I type in the word that is nearly and I find other nearly ones. I am the battered heroine in an action movie dragging herself along the floor to get the key or the gun or whatever it is. I keep clicking, I reach out – make that final excruciating stretch – and it’s in my grasp! (Then the villain kicks it away – only kidding!) I insert the found word and it unlocks the meaning of the whole sentence. But more than that. Words, of course have many meanings and many associated words that form a continum of meaning. When I choose a word, all the other possible words and meanings resonate behind it, lending it greater context and significance, giving the word its own particular mood, creating layers in the story.
Yes, you worthy writers already knew that implicitly didn’t you? And I suppose I did too. Using the thesaurus just showed me that explicitly. Perhaps to be truly worthy you do have to have the thesaurus, the map of all words (worlds!) in your head. Until then, I’ll keep my route planner.
Thesaurus: Dictionary, lexicon, wordbook, encyclopedia, treasury (ooh, layers), repository (mmm).