Finding That ‘Perfect’ Word

Everyone’s had trouble finding that elusive, “just right” word, especially when it comes to writing. I just came across this chart, created by English teacher Kaitlin Robbs: Tired of hackneyed emotion adjectives – either in your own writing or student work? Just slap this sucker up on the wall and your problems are solved.

word chart

But – one caveat – be careful about when you use it. My usual approach when I’m drafting and can’t think of the right word is to type a completely random string of letters and come back to it later. It may sound strange, but I know if I break my workflow for a “quick” word-quest, I’ll derail my writing momentum. Then I’ll need to steam up the engine all over again to get the ol’ writing train back on track. So instead, I just write something like, “The author described the intervention as afwoeifjwe to educational achievement,” and worry about it later.

Or, when I have a particular meaning or image in my mind, but can’t Continue reading “Finding That ‘Perfect’ Word”

Academic Advice, Writing

On Perfectionism – in Writing and in LIFE

Hanging_the_headWith this whole PhD thing, I do a lot of writing, which I’ve always been  horrendous at getting actually getting myself to do. A friend recommended spending the first 10 minutes of my writing sessions reading books by people who are good at it, so I picked up Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I don’t hesitate to say that it contains some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received (not to mention it’s a quick and hilarious read).

But today’s chapter hit me in ways that went beyond writing, and I just have to share these words. They’re from her chapter on Perfectionism, and her advice is applicable to much more than writing:

 “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped up and insane your whole life…. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive believe that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Continue reading “On Perfectionism – in Writing and in LIFE”