Security Blankets

I have excised a word from my vocabulary today, because I know I rely on it too often and in too many kinds of circumstances. Perhaps it’s part of my voice, but I think I’ll survive without it. It’s the word “just.” I tend to use it in one of two ways:

  1. To show an event that transpired in the very immediate past
  2. To provide for the exclusion of all other possibilities, e.g., I just want to show you this.

I’ve used it so much that I grind my teeth at night. It’s taken that much away from my happiness. It sneaks up on me, when I’m not looking, leaping onto my keyboard and burrowing under the LCD like it belongs there with all the other words I could conjure. It’s like a virus, replicating in my text—59 times in 220 pages for my latest WIP. While I’ve made progress in feeling like an authentic writer, two publishing credits to my name, even, it makes me look like a hack amateur.

I can live without “just.” I don’t need it. I eschew you, “just.” You’re dead to me. Boring. A hamper on my attempts to improve my craft of writing. A dirty, wannabe adverb, no less. I don’t want you here anymore. If I see you, I’m going to rearchitect the whole sentence, or strike it in its entirety.

It was fine to make shortcuts when I was 17, or when I carve through the hard wood of a first draft. I know many more language changes are around the corner. But “just” persists, and here I am looking at 59 of them at the start of my third draft. I’m flushing rats from a cargo ship.

We all have our security blanket or other. A turn of phrase, a word, a type of protagonist. They’re fine to a point, and then it’s time to cast them off, bad fish we’re not about to eat or serve to our loved ones. Find them, smite them. I’m hoping that without “just” in my life, I will search for and discover lovelier words, creating stronger, more resilient language. It’s part of dedicating myself to becoming the best writer I can be.

Photo credit: Eye – the world through my I on Flickr


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Categories: ponderings


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4 Comments on “Security Blankets”

  1. January 15, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    I learned to use the word “just” as a defense mechanism. It’s just a rejection. It’s just a little rain. It’s just death. It’s just life. It’s a great word for minimizing impact. It’s not the best word when we’re trying to write with impact, which is generally the case.

    • evmaroon
      January 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      What a beautiful comment, and very true. I use it less often in that way after all these years, because I try hard to accept life on its terms and modify my response to it. Totally agreed on writing with impact! “Just” is like smelly foam padding in that way.

  2. jesse
    January 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    don’t you mean it’s just part of dedicating yourself to being the best writer you can be?

    • evmaroon
      January 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      You’re trying to trick me, Jesse. I see right through you!

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