One of the biggest challenges as a yoga teacher is finding the right words. It’s
challenging a lot of responsibility to be a conversational, fun teacher while saying every posture correctly so your students actually understand what you mean.
During our first long weekend we did an exercise where we closed our eyes while our teacher told us, ‘Lift your arms up.’ When we opened our eyes, some people had their palms turned out, some turned in. Some people had their arms parallel to the floor, others had their arms straight over their head.
taught showed us how varied our interpretations are of the things people tell say.
Then, we found a partner,
kept held our hands a few inches apart, and had to follow followed the other person’s movements using sight only. We found there was a delay between the other person’s movements and our own imitation of their movements. But it was easier to follow than simply hearing words instructions.
Then we touched hands. And suddenly
imitating mirroring our partner’s actions was completely intuitive.
Words are always up to interpretation. And as much as I love
everything about words, it’s sight and touch, that clarifies what we should do with those words. Through my blog, I can’t touch you. (Lucky for you.) So how do you understand? How do I know what I see as yellow is what you see as yellow? Does that metaphor even make any sense to you?
Fast forward a few weeks
later and we all got reamed called out for giving the instruction cue ‘bring the right foot toward the right thumb’. What we should have said was, ‘bring the right foot TO the right thumb.’ Toward implies anywhere between where the right foot currently is and the right thumb. This could be two inches or it could be two feet. In none of those options though do we say the right foot should be directly next (to) the right thumb. We shouldn’t expect people to understand what we mean when our words aren’t exact.
I’ve never thought so hard about the precision in the words I use. I worry about grammar and spelling and flow. But never the difference between precision and exactness and attention-to-detail. With blogging, we tend to flap around, assuming the words we think up on the spot will be perfectly understood by our readers.
But every. single. word.
matters. is of importance. means something. counts.
I’m a huge proponent for cutting copy. My writing process involves a complete brain dump that takes 10 minutes and
ends up being 1000 words. I usually like to cut down my posts to around 500-600. Every word is scrutinised.
There’s nothing I love more than cutting other people’s copy though, because I have no attachments to them. And I think that’s part of the problem. We have such an attachment to the words we originally choose, that first draw us in, that we don’t scrutinise how other people might interpret them.
Have a look at the last thing you wrote. Hell, look at the last thing I wrote. When I said, ‘My writing process involves a complete brain dump’, did you understand the visual? Or should I have said, ‘My first draft is usually a 1000 word brain dump.’ Which is clearer? Does the word ‘brain dump’ even mean anything to you? Should I have used ‘free write’?
In the words of Mark Twain, ‘The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.’