In the beginning was the Word.
But that was then. Today there are many words. Millions upon millions of words: flashed up on screens, printed on paper, spat out by fingers on keyboards, spat out by angry mouths. Words uttered at a shout, words whispered quietly. Words demolished into byte-sized pieces spiralling through the digital ether. Words (or their close cousins, perhaps) tapped into phone keypads and sent into the air to fly around above our heads, looking for just the right person to land on to say yes, chicken for dinner would be good, thank you. Millions of words and no hope that they will all be read, treasured nor, let’s be honest, in many cases even understood.
Think of the chalk blackboard outside a café: ‘Special of the day’, written every morning, wiped clean every night. Think of the words spoken by the news reporter, filling every single hour of the day with opinion, soundbites, interviews, captions, headlines and commentary. Transient words, here today but only fleetingly.
Think of the one-page report on your manager’s desk. How many emails were sent in the writing of one page of A4; how many conversations were held, how many arguments? That is surely not the first draft now is it? Think of the unused words locked away in all those agonised-over drafts you won’t ever look at again.
Think now of a book. Perhaps your favourite book. Think of what those words mean to you, as you read them and re-read them. Think of the pictures they draw in your mind, the places they take you to, the feelings they stir up inside. Think about when those words were written; these are the words that are still with us long after the first moment of their creation. Not for these words the ignominy of being wiped away, of being read and forgotten or, worst of all, of being ignored completely.
This is what all words aspire to.
These are not the grains of sand washed up on a beach, waiting to be snatched away again by the coming of a new day’s tide. These are the grains of sand that have been heated, shaped, fused together into something greater. These are the grains of sand that stand together in the stained glass of La Sainte-Chapelle.
These are not the copper coins that rattle around in your pocket, not really yours, not really loved, just waiting to be passed on to the next person. A vagabond life for a little piece of metal. These are the bronze statues, born of copper and tin and fire. Art, created by those with the skill to bring life to inanimate ingredients.
Why not try to give new life to unwanted words?
Don’t throw them away at the end of the day. Don’t hand them on without thought. Don’t pass them by unread or unheard. Let us take these words, break them down, reshape them, combine them in new and unusual ways. They are the grains of sand that can become a spectacular piece of glass, the lumps of metal that can become great art.
Let us take these words and recycle them. Reuse them and recreate them. Unwanted words are all around us, just waiting to be used.
Let’s write stories with them.