I’m Lou Franco and this is episode 34 of Write While True.
The name of this podcast is a program that goes into an infinite loop, and that’s because I think of writing as an infinite game.
It’s like a game of catch, which is even more fun when you get better at it, but the only way to do that is to keep playing.
So in each episode, I’ll tell you something I learned about writing, and then I’ll throw you the ball with a writing challenge or a prompt.
I’m a member of Toastmasters, which is a club that meets regularly to practice public speaking.
We start every meeting with a Word of the Day. Someone comes up and shares a word with the group. They give a definition and a sentence and then for the rest of the meeting, we all try to work that word into our speeches.
It’s a way to practice extemporaneous speaking and spontaneity.
A lot of times, when one of us is successful in using the word, we do it with a nod and a smile, perhaps putting on an orotund voice to draw attention to it.
While the words are often unusual, we do want the word to be useful. Many of the words are ones we know, we just don’t use them that much. The fun is trying to work it in.
There’s a fine line when picking the word. If it’s too weird, we probably can’t figure out how to use it well. If it’s too pedestrian, we can do it, but it’s just not as fun. The right word is one we might not have chosen, but should have, and now we do.
I’m currently reading The Sense of Style, a book by Steven Pinker and I think he said it well. He said:
Readers who want to become writers should read with a dictionary at hand, and writers should not hesitate to send their readers there if the word is dead-on in meaning, evocative in sound, and not so obscure that the reader will never see it again.
That describes what we’re trying to do perfectly.
To find words, each of us in the club has different sources. One of the members likes to find words in Mariah Carey songs. Most of us, though, just type “word of the day” into google. There are usually a bunch to pick from.
There are several places where I think you could use this for writing practice. If you do morning pages, something I talked a lot about in episode 1, and if you want to prompt those pages, something I talked about in episode 19, well, then you can use words of the day as a seed. Start with three or for different words of the day and just use them in your first sentence and it will give you an unself-conscious jump start. Or, maybe something even more fun, is to use those words as a destination. Use your three morning pages to create a story that inevitably leads you to a place where those words are perfect.
What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to learn how to recall fit words when we need them in our writing. To get better at that, we need to be exposed to more interesting words and to practice using them. Imagine situations where they would be perfect. Making it memorable and ridiculous might help you remember the word when you need it.
So try this now. Go google some words of the day. Pick three or four and just make up a situation that naturally leads you to use them. Maybe use your morning pages to do this. I did it with this podcast. An orotund voice is marked by its strength and clarity of sound. I used it to describe how my toastmaster club’s members try to draw attention to themselves when they use the word of the day. It’s not a perfect fit, but that’s ok, I did the best in the constraints I set for myself. I think this exercise will actually help me remember the word if I ever do need it.
Thanks for listening. This has been Write While True, a podcast where we’re okay with infinite loops as long as they’re fun.