Eddie Murphy starred in a movie in 2011 called A Thousand Words. It wasn’t a rock star movie or raging success; as a matter of fact I probably just gave it about as much press as it got when it first came out. In the movie, Murphy plays a publisher who over promises to a spiritual guru and suddenly finds a tree in his back yard. Every word Murphy’s character speaks is a leaf on the tree and as he uses his words up the leaves fall off the tree. I think you can see where the idea moves from there – the character becomes obsessed with his word count and attempts to stop talking all together, bargains with the guru to get rid of the tree (“I’ve learned my lesson” concept), and finally begins to make his words meaningful.
I have an affection for words that others find quirky and amusing I think. I love to find rarely used words that embody a meaning so perfectly that to just say or write them makes everyone understand my meaning precisely. When I write, I value words in a different way. There’s a fantastic little tool at the bottom of all my processing methods that gives me a “word count;” exactly how many words I have typed to express my point. When that number starts to get too big, I fear that I have swamped my point and I try to go back and edit out words to bring that number back into my ideal range. And then I fear I will edit it down too far and too much of my point will be left to interpretation (which as of late has been a very bad thing).
So many things affect our words as well. Negative feelings and experiences can cause us to either stop talking all together or start to throw out words that are barbs to other people or inflict self-abuse on our own esteem and image. Positive feelings and experiences may open floodgates of words that encourage others or inflate our own worth. Or what about this experience? You find yourself in a room where no one is talking and the air is just thick with…nothing. Some times there is such an urgency to fill that uncomfortable space with anything that the words out there become nothing as well.
Proverbs 17:27 & 28
He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
I can’t be the only person on the planet who has spoken when I should have been silent, can I? Oh how many times I have made myself look like a fool because I jumped the gun and responded without all the facts. Or in the heat of a battle I have let words fly that were misdirected or just plain hateful.
One must remember all the words that are used in a day. What if our written words were counted as well? This particular post has been “in process” for almost a week because my words were stuck, then awkward, and now…well, you will all be the judge of what they are now. But what we write can be just as dangerous as what we verbalize because there is no verbal tone or inflection to carry our meaning to the next level. So many times I have read a post and prayed that the reading in my head matches the one in my readers’.
Words carry such power. To reveal the nature of our hearts. To tear down or build up. To stir up or soothe. To encourage or inspire. To call into accountability or to instruct. But sometimes words can be left unsaid and do all those things as well.
A friend of mine takes great fun in being in discussion groups with me. She says she can tell from watching my face if I have a thought I am about to share or not. Apparently you can see the thought unfolding and being constructed before I even open my mouth. I guess that’s a good thing. Hopefully by considering and forming my thought completely (or at least attempting to), I am wise more often than I am a fool. But then again, even a fool is wise if he learns to keep his mouth shut. (That’s my version, anyway.)
What’s your word count today? And have your words counted?