…wondering if it is exactly the right one to use in that particular place and if there is any way possible in which it could be misunderstood.

I love words.  I love the way there is always a perfect word no matter what you want to say, if you can only find it.  But one morning a couple of weeks ago, I realised I’d been staring at the screen for half an hour, looking at a single word.  I didn’t have this problem in the past: I just wrote.  Words came pouring out, or they didn’t, but I didn’t ponder individual ones for hours on end!  So how did I turn into that woman?

Partly, it’s down to the depression, I think, which brings on a paranoia that the people reading my work will misunderstand if I don’t use exactly the right phrase in exactly the right place.  But it’s more down to the way that I’ve been taught to consider the rhythm of the text and the precise meanings of what I say.  I found some work a few months ago that my tutor marked when I was an undergraduate and I’m ashamed to say that he was still commenting on the same sort of problems almost twenty years later.  At that point, I decided that something needed to be done, so I started to pay close attention to unpacking every detail: not assuming that the reader would instantly understand what I was talking about; changing the order of the words until I found a rhythm that I was happy with; trying to pad it out with continuity words and phrases so that the reader has time to think.  I’m not there yet.   Signposting I still have trouble with.  But I’m getting there.  I might never manage to emulate the sparkling clarity of my supervisors, of whose way with words I remain deeply envious, but I am pleased to report that at my panel meeting this week, they all commented on the improvement in the fluency of my writing.  So although I remain unconvinced that staring at a single word for half an hour is the best way to spend my limited time, certainly the attention to detail has paid off.

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