Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Word Play

I play word games. Maybe you do, too. I play Words With Friends (WWF) and Scramble. In the old days their equivalents were Scrabble and Boggle. I frequently lose. I am a writer. What does that say? More about my gaming skills than my skills with words, I hope.

A writer plays with words all the time, seeking exactly the right ones to convey meaning and trimming them until they are just shy of losing that meaning.

I think many of my WWF opponents would balk at writing a short story. It would not seem like word play to them. Writing a novel, to them, might seem an impossible task.
That is not to say they lack a skill with words. They know how to spell them and they have a good vocabulary, or they would rarely beat me in those ongoing games.

Writing requires a different skill set than playing word games. Even so, some people refuse to accept a WWF challenge from me because they think a writer might play well beyond their level of skill. I might. I might not. I play with people who have little formal education beyond high school, and I play with lawyers and PhDs. There is little correlation between education level and WWF skill level in my regular group. Of course there are players who quickly drop out when they find they can’t successfully compete, just as there are more skilled players who get bored because they aren’t challenged by my gaming abilities.

It’s only a game. It isn’t writing. Nevertheless it pleases me to play the modern version of Scrabble because my great aunt played. Agnes Just Reid was a well-known regional writer and almost as well known for her ruthless Scrabble games, played on the kitchen table of her ranch house with the cast iron stove keeping everyone warm. I play on a mobile device and rarely have a lemon pie baking in the background. The inclination, playing with words as vocation and avocation, is the same. I link to think it would please her to know that I write and that I play, and that one of my top tier opponents is one of her great, great grandsons. Word play is a family tradition.

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