On Being Preoccupied with Words


The tagline for my company, Working Words,  is “Getting right to the point.” It’s a promise to clients.

When I started this blog post, I wasn’t sure if “preoccupied” was the right word. I considered using ‘”obsessed.” The words are close, but slightly different. “Preoccupied” means that you are so absorbed in thinking about or doing something that you forget everything else. On the other hand, “obsessed” means that you never stop thinking about something. I chose “preoccupied” because once a writing project is finished, I stop thinking about the words I’ve used.

I can spend an inordinate amount of time with synonym and dictionary tools. The synonym feature in Microsoft Word is my best friend and I use it all the time. Right-clicking on any word (on a PC, anyway) brings up a list of word alternatives. If I change one word to another, I can click again and get another list. This can turn into a fun vocabulary game that I play for too long and forget everything else. The phone can ring, the dryer can beep, but I ignore (or is it “disregard”?) these distractions. I think this qualifies as a preoccupation.

It’s easier for me to come up with words when I’m writing than it is in a conversation. When I’m speaking, I get just one shot at using the right word. There are no options for changing it. I suppose that’s why I’m a writer rather than an orator. I like having word choices.

To make sure I remember words when I’m not at my computer, I have pads of paper and pens placed strategically all over the house. I jot and scribble, cross out and revise, until I’m back online. I have to laugh when I see all of the crumpled up Post-its in the trash.

A lot of people (not just writers) can be preoccupied with using the right words. There are dozens of word games out there–online, offline, for kids, for adults. The popular game Words With Friends is a perfect example of word play. Crossword puzzles and Scrabble have engrossed word enthusiasts for years.

I don’t always have the luxury of picking and choosing from multiple words. My profession depends on writing quickly, to the point, and following strict deadlines. I can’t change my mind after something has been published.

Speaking of which, I’d better wrap it up and click ‘Publish’ before I start examining and revising all the words I’ve used here.

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