On Words, Work and Jerry McGuire

This is the time of year when I begin prepping my speeches and lectures for the fall.  Some of these are on topics related to writing and creativity; but others I write for those who don't generally have the luxury of sitting down for any length of time and thinking about how they might use language more effectively, more powerfully, more satisfyingly in their lives--people who don't often get to explore and experience their own, creative relationship to words (as we writers are so fortunate to do), this richness we all carry around with us, in dimes without any weight.  Musing over all the forces that lead us to limit what words can do for us, I found myself writing:

"Life and work have an uncanny way of inviting us into language ruts.  Think about it.  How many of our professions invite us to be routine in the way we use words?  How many of us have set ways of speaking and writing and communicating within our individual fields that we are expected to master, and that we do in fact need and want to use, for all kinds of reasons--as handy shortcuts in communicating with our colleagues ("Liz, what's the take-away on that?"); as signals between colleagues that we know what we're talking about and inhabit the same world ("Who are we assigning to SEO on this?"); and sometimes as a sheer safety mechanism, because we know if we use certain words and phrases we can't go wrong, we won't offend anybody, we won't hit the wrong note, we know where we are There are, as it happens, powerful incentives as we move through life to fall into language patterns, literal and figurative abbreviations, and begin narrowing our language skills instead of expanding them . . . And while there is nothing wrong with mastering certain kinds of language forms that we have to master, where we should begin to become concerned is when we notice the box of words we're required to work with all the time is yielding nothing but stale crumbs in the mouth . . . when unwittingly we begin to represent ourselves to the world, as a result of this, in a stale way.  I'm talking about when we can feel ourselves not feeling our own words.  Because when our words fail to move or inspire or excite us, we begin to lose the ability to move ourselves toward the brightest things of which we are capable.  And we begin to lose, too, the ability to inspire people around us . . ."

Not long after I got this down, I decided I was done writing for the day and went into the living room to relax and watch Jerry McGuire on cable; and by changing a word or two of the movie's dialogue in my mind (language is possibility, language is ours) came up with the following :

If you don't love all the words, you can't sell any of them!

Language completes us.



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