23. May 2017 · Comments Off on What’s in a word? · Categories: Uncategorized, words

Friend Judy Whitfield (we shared a flat in 1962 in London’s NW2) created this artwork as part of her degree at St Martin’s Central School of Art in the late 1990s. A copy now hangs above my mantlepiece, serving as a constant inspiration…

She began in the centre with the single word SPACE, and then began adding by association… Plucking out two of three words at random and working them into a paragraph at the beginning of a writing day works wonders at getting the             creative juices flowing…

Having just sent off my latest book for layout, I find myself positively astonished that yet another 60,000 words – 60,313 at the latest count – have somehow manifested.

Manifested… now there’s an interesting word.

To me it implies words having somehow, as if by magic, (and by implication, meaning) made their way from brain to screen, just as in the old days they made their way on to paper.

But what does manifested mean by accepted definition?

Good lord, not what I was imagining at all: when used as an adjective, clear or obvious to the eye or mind, and (as a noun), to show (a quality or feeling) by one’s acts or appearance; demonstrate.

And yet on some level, my reason for writing was clear and obvious to my mind, my eye. And I was most definitely demonstrating a feeling, an emotion… After all, I was writing a love story. A love story about a house. The house that was our home in Japan from 2002 until we left to come here in 2012.

Still the word, manifest, means more… to me, at least. When students write something that astonishes, even blows them away, many having never written before, they all say the same thing: ‘Where did it come from?’ And my reply is always the same: ‘Well, there’s the mystery, the magic.’

Apparently the Hindu word for meaning is “breakthrough, release”. I like this very much.

Talking and writing about what an individual may have broken through to, psychologically or emotionally, or what they may have released, inevitably leads on to a discussion about imagination and the meaning of that particular word: imagination, a noun used easily in day-to-day conversation, but without any real consideration as to its origin and inherent explanation or interpretation.

We use words so casually, especially in these days of instant communication. This is why dashed off e-mails and twits/twitters get so many into so much trouble.

When all communications had to be hand-written, time was different: longer, quieter, less dictatorial. There was time to think, to consider, to reflect, to re-consider… Words were more carefully chosen, sentences crafted, pages discarded for not reflecting the writer’s intent or emotion.

When did you last delete an e-mail and re-write, having realized it might be mis-construed, even cause the reader pain? (We are all at fault here, SEND-ing without even checking spelling and construction, let alone the emotional consciousness or un-consciousness at the heart of the message.)

I remember some years ago now a man mailing about a course I was about to run. Did he have to bring anything, apart from his laptop? When told that students would be writing by hand, and that all he needed to bring were a candle (for Proprioceptive writing sessions), a pen or pencil that he liked to work with, and an open mind, he near had a fit and accused me of being a dinosaur. Needless to say, he (being just the kind of person who would benefit most) did not sign up.

If he had come, I might have suggested at some point that he begin a PW WRITE by asking himself what he meant by accusing me of living in the past, if this was indeed what he meant or was implying. Because the question used in PW to explore our thinking and reactive habits more often than not leads into previously unexplored territory. This is how we learn, move on… how transformation occurs.


An extinct reptile? Someone living in the past? Jurassic Park? An archeological site of ancient remains. What else… where might such a question lead?

A quick google of the question, what’s in a word, brought up Michael Hoey’s five questions for learners (of English as a language, I am assuming) and linguists.

  1. What does the word mean?
  2. What word or words does it associate with?
  3. What meaning does it associate with?
  4. What grammatical function does it associate with?
  5. What position in the text does the word favour?

Questions 1-3 I have time for. But I admit to never thinking about 4 and 5. This is in large part because my writing courses are holistic rather than academic in approach. It also reflects how personally I write.

I rarely “think” (too much) about what I am writing, and am in no doubt that there is (at such an admission) a great throwing up of hands, many a wry cynical smile, and maybe even a few, “Well, that explains everything!”

Rather I am like a fountain that mostly flows full and freely, sometimes less so, and only very occasionally runs dry. An empty page, a blank screen never stays so for long. There is always something to write about. Words spill out of me… and usually in the right order. An order that maybe I alone understand, that is. But that’s okay. While writing to communicate with others, in large part I write to explore my Self, to raise my awareness, deepen my consciousness…

Or for fun. Donna (Murray-Trail) sent me this card, not because she thought I needed persistance (or rather persistence, which it appears I have in abundance) but because she thought it might make me laugh… which it does! 

On one level I admire those writers who spend a day crafting a sentence, following Michael’s five questions to the letter. On another, I think it must be hell. But that is because I am who I am (led by intuition and an ongoing search for authenticity), and they are who they are (lodged in academia and seeking perfection in logic and rationale).

The need for success seems to loom large for many. Appreciation by their peers. Recognition. Admiration. Zillions of sales. Money in the bank.

All very nice, some of it at least. But is that why I write? Not really. I write because it’s who I am, what I do. Do the words I produce define who I am? No. But they keep me off the streets and happy.

And to be honest, that’s enough.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY HONEST? Mmm. Maybe need another rainy afternoon to see where this leads.

Excerpt from HOUSEHOLD STORIES/Katei Monogatari (now in production) – from the chapter My Room:

I love this room. How many thousands — millions — of words have been written in here? How many trillions of thoughts have chased through my endlessly chattering brain? How many breaths have I taken to live through each and every day? How many deliberate slow breaths have I taken trying to enter stillness and silence, or to consciously allow energy to enter my body and heal the various parts that at one time or another scream for attention? (There are really parts of this ageing thing I could well do without.)

I no longer practise yoga, which I had done on and off for many years, and miss it terribly. I dream of being in lion’s pose, it is — was — so comfortable.

But I do sit.

And sometimes I dance.

My room in Japan (2002-2012) 








The room where I am writing now…  Remember: a  word is simply a label, meaningless in itself. Meaning less than what? Now there’s a thought… 

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