The word-peddler

Lone writer
This must have been a thriving tree! @ Sequoia National Park Photo credit: BW

Some of us train ourselves to be a peddler of words. Or as people who can assess and value words.

We package words, we polish them up and then we hawk our wares on streets of the real world. No matter how great or small, we hope to make a dazzling show.

As time goes by, we surround ourselves with other word-hawkers, spending long hours in our smithies, talking to each other, supporting each other, but also distancing ourselves an inch at a time until our little corner of the pavement starts seeming like a world.

The real world.

All the while, the great, wide, beautiful, wonderful world moves on, carrying on its business of selling batteries, carpets, jackets, phones, tiles and other gadgets of life. For (wo)man cannot live on words alone.

Fortunately, for many a skilled wordsmith, life continues in the warm glow of the roadside smithy. But for others, there is often a rude awakening at inconvenient times.

The wordsmith discovers that his little corner is somewhat superfluous to the real world. His stories are tangential to its existence, his concerns unreal, his fare not quite of value to anyone but his own little group of friends who have or will soon be jolted into an equal experience of reality. They have all been on a heady ride to a magic land which was bound to end sometime. For they haven’t been training themselves on how to pick the right goods to peddle.

And then the wordsmith, not knowing how to make batteries, or carpets, or phones, or tiles turns to telling stories about them–stories about how the battery, this one, will transform your life, or how the carpet, this pattern on it, will set you apart from your neighbours, or how your jacket will make a mark if it only has this name on it.

Having lived in the corner of the world for a big part of his life, the wordsmith sees more, and knows more about the world than its denizens within it. So his stories are happy but dangerous and he is now as happy as can be in the real world.

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18 thoughts on “The word-peddler”

  1. Great article. I enjoy making up fake stories about real stuff. I’ll keep to my corner of the world making things up, thank you. After all, we do what psychologists and psychiatrists make 100s of 1000s of dollars doing…Making people feel better. Relieving stress. Spurring on thought. And we do it, for the most part, for free.

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  2. Sobering post, but true. After more than a decade of calling myself a writer, I finally reached the point where I write for myself instead of wondering, “What will flotsam and jetsam think of this?” Who cares if I’m satisfied. Thanks – as usual you force me out of my routine to contemplate the world of the wordsmith.

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  3. Great post. The life of a wordsmith is dangerous. We want to thrive and be the opposite of that lightning- or wind-blasted tree in the photo. Keep spreading the word and encouraging your fellow wordsmiths!

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    1. Definitely sobering. Like the copywriter who pays bills but really wants to be a novelist.

      I guess the way not to be depressed about: “The wordsmith discovers that his little corner is somewhat superfluous to the real world. His stories are tangential to its existence, his concerns unreal, his fare not quite of value to anyone but his own little group of friends who have or will soon be jolted into an equal experience of reality,” is to write things that really mean something. Write things that touch people’s hearts, or advocate for the voiceless or something. Write things that aren’t tangential to the real world, but directed towards it.

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