How the Wrong Focus Can Lead One Astray

This morning I was typing an email to an old friend and told her I’d been following her exploits. Only I typed “explotits” instead. Which, you know, isn’t really the same thing at all.

But surely it should be a thing.

Thus: your Arbitrary Word Challenge for the day: use “explotits” in conversation or writing.

Fortunately, the helpful pointer out of wrong words flagged it for me. You know what I mean – that squiggly line that pops up under words the almighty computer doesn’t have in its databanks. I rarely use Spellcheck, because I’m a spelling snob that way. (Amusingly, I have an existing label for “Spellcheck, but can’t recall why. Clearly I have a fraught relationship.) But if the squiggly line shows up, I know I misspelled the word somehow. Or I made it up. It’s kind of a 50/50 proposition that way.

The other day I tried to typed “unparalleled” and got the warning squiggly line. Not terribly surprising since that’s a hard word and I sometimes forget how many r’s and l’s should be in it and in which places. So I tried adding an l, but the squiggly line persisted. I subtracted a couple of l’s to no avail. I frowned at the r, pretty sure there should be only one. Determined to figure it out, I played with the l combinations some more.

Finally, exasperated with myself and that I’d spent so much time on it, I resorted to Spellcheck.


I’d left out the n.

Yeah. I’d typed “uparalleled.”

Because I’d been so focused on those l’s and r’s, I’d never bothered to go back and check the whole word for stupid misses. This is what people mean when they say you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” You get so intent on particular pieces that you fail to expand your view and see what else is there. What you might have missed.

It’s a good thing for me to keep in mind.


This is me, making La Peche Chocolate Velvet for Christmas. I rarely do much exotic baking anymore, so it was fun for me to indulge in that kind of creativity.

Yesterday I finished my revise and resubmit on Sapphire. I’m pretty pleased with the result – now it’s just cross my fingers time. I did a final spell check before I sent it off. I’m lucky enough to be a pretty good speller, so spell check mainly catches my odd words. Amusingly, Word doesn’t recognize a number of words I use. Among them:

Tsk, tsked and tsking

The winner, however, is:

Rebuttoning, which Word suggested should be “rebut toning.”

Try using that in a sentence. “I would like to rebut toning arguments, but I know I need to work out more.” Erm.

And really, “skeezy” isn’t a word? (Incidentally, Blogger agrees it’s not.)

I like words. Always have. When I was in 7th grade, I started a list of good words. I had stuff on there like exquisite, writhe and oscillate. Words are my medium and I figure I get to work my medium as I see fit. Which means I might make up words now and again.

To me, this is very much like messing around with a recipe while cooking. When you first start baking, or even the first time you make a recipe, it’s best to stick very close to instructions. You have to learn the basics of how a dish comes together. It’s part chemistry, part biology, part magic. But, after you have that stuff down, then you can mess with it. I often reduce sugar and salt. But then, I kind of know how much sugar I really need to make the crystalline structure work correctly, or to feed the yeast. Salt creates a crucial balance to the sweet and brings forth other flavors, but it doesn’t take much.

A good cook also knows how to substitute ingredients. Not that a writer runs out of words like I might run out of, oh, almond extract. (All the grocery stores in Tucson sold out of almond extract – what was up with that??) But, after you’ve used the word “touch” 72 times, you start looking to replace some of those with alternatives. You get creative with it.

Sure, sometimes the substitute doesn’t work. The bread doesn’t rise, the souffle falls flat. Sometimes it’s brilliant.

The best part about writing is, until it hits the press, you can always tweak it.