Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

I was writing about an upcoming workshop I’m offering in May–GIVE RISE TO WONDER–when I tuned into a webinar in which the author used Twain’s almost right v. right word as a jumping-off point for his presentation. It inspired me to think about how I might approach this topic with writers (and with myself).

Looking at the difference between the almost right word and the right word is like looking at a finger pointing to the moon and looking directly at the moon yourself. Or looking at Michelangelo’s Adam reach out to the hand of God and reaching out to God’s hand yourself. It’s the difference between observing somebody else’s experience and having the experience yourself.

The joy of the right word appearing on the page is the direct experience of the awe and wonder of the moon’s energy or of God’s mystery. It is the experience of being one with your characters and their worlds.

Choosing the right word is a very large part of what makes a writer’s voice unique. But what exactly does that mean: choosing the right word?

In my experience, right words come from being directly in touch with one’s deepest resource–one’s voice–which holds within it the entire content of one’s heart and soul and mind. Our voice is the reason we write.

Nothing feels more right to a writer than writing from a place of wonder and awe. It is, quite simply, the experience of self and word as one, an unbroken trust sweeping us into the unknown.

In that unknown is every right word we will ever need for every piece of work we will ever write. All of your writing may use many of the same words–it will use many of the same words. But what will make those same words so different in every work is YOU. Your Voice. Your Mind. Your Heart. Your Soul.

My upcoming workshop GIVE RISE TO WONDER is an experiment in writing I’ve been wanting to offer for a while. It’s inspired by Wells Tower’s advice: “With fiction there’s no reason why everything you write shouldn’t be amazing. Nobody stopping you from making up better stuff.” Advice I’ve been following since I first read his words in an interview almost ten years ago.

GIVE RISE TO WONDER. Saturday 5 May, 12.00-3.00pm. Cost: $25. Registration will open soon. Save the date! *

I wish you the joys of Spring and inspired writing (even on days when the right word is nowhere to be found!).


* Thank you to my friend Tracy Pace for reminding me to add: the workshop will be a live webinar. All you’ll need to participate is access to the Internet, a computer-like screen (computer, iPad, etc.).


  1. remember the song by The Waterboys, ‘you saw the whole of the moon’?

    My poem on this topic from @2001:

    Poetry is more than stringing words together:
    It’s bearing your soul to dwell forever
    On stuff which gave you joy or pain,
    Reliving it again, again, again.

    It’s offering your work to critics
    Who don’t have time to write their own,
    So they disseminate your life instead.
    You should have known.

    So much for shared experience
    And communicating freely;
    When people nod and say ‘I see…’
    I think ‘Oh do you, really?’!

    Wish I could come to your workshop, travelling has been difficult since I injured my foot during the disaster ( TS Harvey ) last year.


    1. Unless I’m invited to do a workshop in person all workshops are offered as webinars. It’s useful to have a mic on one’s computer otherwise conversation is a little one-sided. Other than that, you can participate from the comfort of your home or wherever you happen to be on the day of the workshop, and if you don’t have a mic you can use the chat box though it’s not ideal. xxxs

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