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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Wisdom of the Wordsmith

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

The wordsmith makes words come alive. Whether it's stirring tall grass along an ocean's edge, rousing a lake to fury or creating a state of serenity, the wordsmith knows how to make words perform because they've studied how they perform for the masters. Like a poet, they learn an economy and refinement of expression.

Word handlers know their audience too. They choose their words carefully, making sure they hit their mark, just as Abraham Lincoln did when he delivered his two-minute, two hundred fifty plus word Gettysburg Address.

Most people don't give much thought to the words they use, often communicating with little preparation. They don't script what they'll say and then wonder why their ideas and propositions get rejected, or worse, ignored. Why? Because they haven't thoughtfully or thoroughly prepared and presented them.

Twain famously said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning strike and the lightning bug."

In Verlyn Klinkenborg’s magnificent manual on sentence writing, he expresses the revisions that are so often disregarded:

“If you could look through the spaces between the sentences, through the door into the writing room, into that writer’s head, you’d see that every word was different once and that the writer was contemplating an incalculable number of differences, feeling her way among the alternatives that presented themselves, until settling upon words that were finally written down, then revised over and over again––before they were printed, published, reprinted in anthologies, and treated as though they’d been carved in stone. It was all change until the very last sentence.”

The Magic of Words

The wordsmith is a lover of words, recognizing there is magic in them when strung together just right. There are heavy, juicy words, repelling words, clumsy and clammy words... words that crawl, walk, run and soar.

Word handlers understand words can color the sky and invoke precious memories. And words can hurt, damage, and destroy, just as much as they can heal, inspire, and stimulate new ideas and new ways of thinking.

The magic is in the stringing together of words for the skies they paint, the memories they awaken, the emotions they excite, the feelings they expose, and the pulses they quicken.

Words Command Any Effect

Words can plunge us into hell or lift us into heaven. Whether it's in the writing of the abstract or of things concrete, words can command any effect. Just listen to the following word magic from the hands of the masters.

Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton on describing what could be heaven: “We are born for a higher destiny than that of earth; there is a realm where the rainbow never fades, where the stars will be spread out before us like islands that slumber on the ocean, and where the beings that pass before us like shadows will stay in our presence forever.”

Max Ehrmann's Desiderata, on finding peace: "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence... Be at peace with God, whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

Can you feel the strength, the power in their words? Here's how three notable wordsmiths have described their pain, pleasure and purpose of writing.

Ernest Hemingway: "I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. But it is a hell of a disease to be born with. I like to do it. Which is even worse. That makes it from a disease into a vice. Then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. An obsession is terrible. Hope you haven't gotten any. That's the only one I've got left."

Henry Miller: "I had to lay one brick on another, set millions of words to paper before writing one real, authentic word dragged up from my own guts. The facility of speech which I possessed was a handicap; I had all the vices of the educated man. I had to learn to think, feel, and see in a totally new fashion, in an uneducated way, in my own way, which is the hardest thing in the world.”

Stephen King: “Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

Great wordsmiths become great because of their mastery of words and their use which enables them to communicate to us precisely what they want to communicate. Not words as words, but the concepts, the feelings, the sentiments, and the sensations for which words stand.

"The daylight was rising with the implacable and irresistible force of the solar system behind it." ~ Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an excerpt from his book Alone.

A Call to Action

Some things all wordsmiths seem to agree upon: If our ambition is to produce powerful, skillful writing, then we need to expand our libraries, read and study good writing, be committed to writing as often as possible, and experience life with an appetite... or, in the stirring, vigorous words of Henry Miller, "... be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." Yes, the magic must be in the words.


I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident. I’m a freelance writer and photographer. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. I value your attention, it means a lot to me and it helps others see the story. If you're interested in any awe-inspired photos in this post, or in my gallery: click here, or just call or text at 530.608.9150. Let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email: 

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Andrée Morgana
Andrée Morgana

😀Getting to know you more



Amazing words food for thought 💭 I found myself pondering after sentences..



Good words from a wordsmith

Michael Kennedy
Michael Kennedy

Thanks dad!

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