As you probably know by now, I grew up on a farm. It was not a wealthy area, but the people in the district were good people, and we grew up with strong community values: neighbourliness, loyalty and consideration of others.
Living on a farm can be very isolating. Days go by without speaking to others outside the family. Perhaps that is why, in my family at least, what we said was important. Words were valuable things, chosen carefully so as not to offend. Plainspoken we may have been, but we were never rude.
We grew up, went to university and the city, worked in offices surrounded by people, spending all day reading and writing reports, discussing issues. Words could be flung about willy-nilly, there were always plenty to spare. In the worst cases, they became office gossip, complaints about the boss. But they also formed ideas, developed into policies, were considered, weighed, kept or tossed aside, they united and divided countries. Different languages came into the mix – where pronunciation, meaning and choice of words were more important then ever.
Then I joined a company of engineers more comfortable with numbers and drawings than words. Communication was not their strong point, but they struggled to understand even that. I left in frustration, but then returned later as a consultant training them in the use of words, talking to clients, communicating.
Today here I sit, self-employed, in my office over the garage looking out at the macrocarpa trees and across the valley, watching the southerly front come in. Like life on the farm, I find it quite possible to spend an entire day without speaking to anyone other than my husband or the cats, or sometimes, to myself. But still I use words every day – the typed word - to earn money, to support others, and to communicate with friends and family around the world.
In my life, words have been tools, not works of art. I use too many, I know. Brevity is not my strong point. My emphasis has always been on communication, simplicity and clarity, tact. Rarely, if ever, have I chosen words for their beauty, for the way they sound together, for imagery. But recently some favourite authors and other bloggers have inspired me to have a different relationship with words.
So I intend trying.
But in private first.