The last word

This business of putting thoughts to paper carries with it some joys, some laments and a dash of in-between. Those of us who manage to write regularly can extol the virtue of ranting at a keyboard instead of a coworker. We can claim the calm that comes from expression – even if it is never heard (or read) by anyone other than ourselves. For me over these past many years, writing has become a labor of love. While it took some time to figure it out, I finally understand the need of some to keep a journal or at least take some notes here and there.

But like most of life’s pleasures, it is balanced with peril. When one puts pen to paper, it is hard to retract or rephrase. It is out there – uninformed or even ignorant – people get to judge based only on a few words one’s measure. I enjoy biographies of historic figures. The materials often come from meticulous research through the personal papers and even diaries of these people. Would they have taken greater care had they known that years later others would be combing their random thoughts seeking inconsistency or worse?

And when putting something into the public space, special attention must be paid to word choice. Is a phrase or use of lexicon offensive (unintentionally) or sending an inadvertent message? Does it mean something different to a reader not born in the US? Does it mean something different to a reader born after 1985? Has the thought that one believed to be so unique, already been said before? When we’re talking face-to-face, so much more data is shared. We can respond to the body language of the listener and respond on the fly to changes in mood. At least with the written word, one gets the last word.