When I say I “feel” words…

…I mean it literally.

Bear with me, because this is going to be super-hard to explain. I wouldn’t have even noticed anything unusual if I hadn’t been reading Oliver Sacks between neuroscience classes. However, I’ve come to realize that the way I perceive words–and this has nothing to do with language–has a significant impact on my word choice. (Also, from studying for the GRE, it screws with my ability to memorize meanings when two words sound/feel the same but have nothing otherwise in common. Not that I didn’t do well, but still aaargh.)

Anyway, I ‘feel’ words. A more accurate way of putting it would be that the same sensory neurons which fire when I look at objects in the real world fire when I read text, think about words, or use numbers. So…I see words? Jeez. The point is, they occupy three-dimensional space.

Normally, I wouldn’t bring this up at all. It’s really, really hard to explain clearly, especially since I wasn’t aware of it for a long time, but it does have an impact on my writing style. There are words I gravitate to–given so many options in English, I’ll favor one just because it ‘feels’ better. I think it’s going too far to say I’d avoid writers or words entirely because of this, but I suspect the subconscious impact is stronger than I realize. Only further study will tell.

Also, source-wise…maybe it’s because I learned to read when I was really little? Or some screwup in part due to the fact that females have better developed language areas? I wonder if I can get an fMRI. For science!

So tell me, what’s it like when the words on the page stay on the page?

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2 thoughts on “When I say I “feel” words…

  1. So your reality is that montage in movies where the words orbit, dance, and cascade around your person.

    The “feel” of a word can be the connotation. Oliver lumbered to the sacks has a slightly different meaning than Oliver strode to the sacks. Besides merely principles of the craft, I think every author has a favored lexicon, yours is just more lively.

    Does your condition tie into why you can’t be immersed in the story? For most people, where the words stay on the page, the natural tendency is to fall into the world and everything else including the book disappears.

    • Haha–not so much. It’s more exciting than normal, though, I guess?

      Yeah, I’ve found that the meaning of the word changes the texture to some degree. A lot of it is sound and structure, though.

      Hmm…I think I’m too grounded in reality (or easily distracted) for it. I haven’t thought about it, though.

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