Recently I have found myself on a compelling mission to better my vocabulary and by extension, to refine my ability to express. This may seem like both a common and boring objective, but I have been struck by a need to pursue it, and shall do so, provided the motivation persists. My eyes have been opened in such a way that I now see words the same way a buck rabbit sees a field of females, an ocean of opportunity. Opportunities to express my thoughts and observations so that they not only fulfil and please me, but so that they also engage and entertain others.
It began a few weeks ago when I made the decision to read some “classics”. Being a “classic semi-virgin” (That’s a technical term for someone who has never read a “classic” except for “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a school assessment) I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that the experience would be “enriching” and “character-building”, as described by the librarian. So I launched into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. By page 22 I realized “The Great Gatsby” is not a book you “launch” into. Rather, if the novel is a pond, you shuffle slowly into it, admiring the elegant composition of your surroundings and carefully testing the tone and temperature of the water. You do not even reach a depth at which it is necessary to wade, in the slightly more lively waters, until about chapter 5 or 6. As a “Young Adult” reader I have become used to the surging rivers of James Patterson and Suzanne Collins novels, not this sluggish, albeit thoughtful, sort of writing. But although I found myself in unchartered literary waters with “The Great Gatsby” I was overwhelmingly entertained. I quickly started to extract my enjoyment from the beauty of the writing instead of the engagement of the plot. I found myself curious about the underlying themes of the book which in turn made the train-wreck romance intriguing. The point is that I began to appreciate a different aspect of literature, an aspect which really is “enriching”! I have since burned through “1984” and “Lord of the Flies” both of which upheld the caliber of writing that is now associated with the word “classic” in my mind.
I could see now how a vast vocabulary and an ability to express thoughtfully and clearly are necessary if I want to write things that others actually want to read. So the second stage in my quest involved scouring the internet with the search title “Best words in the English language”. I created a list of my favourites, wrote paragraphs incorporating them, and gradually imprinted them into my mind when I could find the time. The list, however, is and I expect always will be extending though.
So this is stage 3 in the mission plan; to write and to practice expression using some of the tools I have gathered from Orwell, Fitzgerald, Golding and The Vocabula Review. Hopefully one day I will be able to illuminate my thoughts with both brevity and brilliance and engage readers as the earlier mentioned authors have engaged me.
This article is a start.