Something I’ve realized recently is that I go through phases. Word phases. I’ll pick a word, or maybe even a phrase if I’m feeling feisty, and I’ll use that word or phrase over and over and over again.
I’ve gone through many a word phase in my young life, though they’ve become shorter and more frequent as I write, well, more.
One favorite of mine was “banal.” Then there was “however,” “placid,” “conversely.” Then “biannually,” “forefront,” “morrow” (morrow had a good long run).
However (ha), there’s one word that has stayed with me for quite a while. My writing is littered with it, to the point where I feel emotionally connected to this word.
And what is this intoxicating word of mine?
Yup. That’s it. “Just.”
I use “just” so often when writing, that a newly routine part of my revision process is using the find function in Word to search and destroy repetitive instances of “just.”
I don’t mean “just” as in “we wish to live in a fair and just society.” No no, that’s not it.
I mean “just” as an add-on. She just made the train. If he could only just tell her how he felt. If I could just stop overusing “just” so much.
I think “just” as my favorite word speaks to a discomfort with description, especially softer descriptions. “Just” adds a dimension of quiet intent, something more without being too much.
“She just barely tapped the orb” instead of “She barely tapped the orb.” “He just needed to find the keys” instead of “He needed to find the keys.” The formers are more interesting, no?
But now, I’m leaning on “just” as a crutch. I use it to circumvent that discomfort with soft descriptions, and I find “just” popping up in everything I write. Texts. Stories. Homework assignments. “Just” is everywhere, and it’s becoming (ahem, has long been) a problem in my writing.
Once I remind myself that I need to find new phrasing, I can usually go back into a piece and reword sentences and whatnot so “just” is no longer necessary. Yet, instead of evolving my process to stop overusing it in the first place, I continue to write it in without a second thought.
Anyhow. Just a thought I’d been mulling over.