Living the Dream Part 24 (Crutch)

For the first time in what feels like absolutely ages, I’m doing a LtD post about writing! *Faints*

One thing that bugs me while I’m tapping away at my keys is always being conscious of shoehorning myself into a trap of word repetition. I absolutely hate it! If two consecutive sentences start with the same word (unless intended that way), I have to change one of them. I cringe if the same word appears twice in quick succession. I earmarked certain terms I used a lot in my novel, Seas of Vengeance, and systematically worked my way through the entire manuscript multiple times either removing overused instances or rewording the sentences in which they appeared.

It all started when I had somebody proofread Vengeance for me and they pointed out that the word ‘but’ was used an awful lot. I used the find feature on Microsoft Word and realised they were embarrassingly right! I was shocked and appalled at how often the simple adverb appeared. Since then, I’ve been mindful, perhaps overly so, about the use of crutch words, especially the infernal ‘but’.

My obsession with crutch words has gotten so bad that I’m now noticing people using them whilst talking. With me working in a call centre, you can probably imagine how many crutch words and phrases I’m treated to on a daily basis. It drives me up the bleeding wall, let me tell you.

I guess it’s pretty much unavoidable. If we’re typing, writing, or talking and thinking mainly about the message we’re trying to convey then we aren’t likely to pick up on our overuse of certain words. It makes me wonder, then, how and why I do notice it. How have I become so conditioned and attuned to this little thing that most can ignore?

The only answer I can reach to that end is that I’m always on a quest for perfection where writing is concerned. Not necessarily perfection in terms of content as that will always come down to individual opinion. One person’s perfect is another person’s dreadful. It’s more a case that I want as few holes poked in my work from a grammatical perspective as possible. At least then I’ve got that side covered and it leaves for people only to focus on the content.

What’s strange about that fact is that, when I read the works of other people, I couldn’t really care less about grammatical precision. It’s so unimportant. All I care about is that a good story is being told or the message they’re trying to convey is being communicated in a manner that makes it easy to understand and relatable. I’ve come across bloggers who can barely even spell and it hasn’t bothered me because what they’re saying in their post is so much more prevalent. I don’t even care if they use crutch words!

Judging oneself more harshly than one judges others is human nature I feel. Setting the bar higher for ourselves than for other people is the standard. It’s not that we feel others aren’t as good or as capable as we are, it’s just that we are habitually less critical of other people than we are of ourselves. There’s a whole psychology lesson on that somewhere no doubt.

I wonder what it is with crutch words. I wonder why I hear a variety of colleagues saying the same choice words and phrases in every conversation with a customer. Is there a kind of unconscious comfort we glean from them? I would probably wager that there is.

Perhaps, in my ongoing state of mental ill health, it would be wiser of me to give my brain the massage it needs by allowing myself to give in to the urge to use the literary crutches it craves. Maybe my unconscious mind is desperate for me to litter my writing with instances of ‘but’. In so many senses, I’m a believer in running with natural urges and that denying nature is detrimental to mental health; however, in this instance, I’m simply unwilling to yield to what my primal mind craves. I can’t. It’d just drive me bonkers in an entirely different way to which I already am bonkers!

Crutches in general are something I’d like to do away with. I’d love to have the confidence not to rely on little comforters and to boldly go, as it were. I want my writing to flow with consummate ease from word to word, sentence to sentence, without my unconscious mind scrambling for the safety net all the time. Writing is the one thing where I don’t want to be inhibited by my crippling lack of self-esteem. It should be the one place where I feel free to express myself and not have to worry about who might be looking and/or judging. In the main, I do a reasonable job in that regard. I care what people think after I’ve done the writing, but not while the writing is taking place; not really.

Or maybe my work is littered with crutches that I simply haven’t realised were there…

Catch up with all previous additions to this series by clicking here.

6 thoughts on “Living the Dream Part 24 (Crutch)

  1. YES! I read a book not too long ago where the lead character (female) sighed like, six times in the span of a page and a half! Her chest rose with a sigh, she spoke with a sigh, she let out a sigh, she sighed…. Gah! It made ME sigh!
    Crutch words are something my mentor discussed with me at one point, and like you, my favorite one seemed to be (and still is) ‘but’. Well, that one and ‘definitely’. (:
    I’ll finish doing the first edit or so, think everything is perfect, then go back to it after a week’s rest and realize my manuscript is riddled with crutches.
    But, it’s a all a journey, and you’re right – I think there is some sort of comfort we get from having crutch words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least you spell definitely correctly and don’t use ‘defiantly’ instead. Haha. I always notice overuse of certain terms when I go back over my work. It doesn’t bother me so much in the draft as the point there is to get the story down. The edit is for the addition of final touches and tidying up, including kicking away the crutches.

      Oh, and I’d have been angry as hell reading that book with all the sighs. I probably would have set fire to it. Haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting you should post this, Paul – I am very similar to you in terms of being highly attuned to repetition of certain words. I really like your idea of earmarking such words in your own manuscript to see just how often they appear. I think my issue on that front is that, I don’t know yet what my own crutch words are! I think I’m too close to my own work to see them. I can pick up on them more easily in others’ work, since I am looking at it with fresh eyes. I am reading a series of books right now, and the author seems to use the word “wag” or “wagging” excessively. As in, “he scolded her and wagged his finger” or “the handsome man wagged his eyebrows.” It pulls me out of the moment each time I see that word now, because I stop and wonder if she couldn’t have used a thesaurus to find a different word!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really isn’t difficult to pick up a thesaurus or type the word in Google with the suffix ‘alternatives’. Haha. These are things that should be picked up in the editing process and by beta readers. Word overuse just isn’t okay. Not for me. You have to mix it up a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

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