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THE WORD I HATE THE MOST...

"Musings" might be the word I read most in columns on sites similar to this one. It's also the most annoying. To understand why writers use it, you must understand writers themselves: most writers think themselves a breed above their fellow men. We "muse" rather than think aloud. We "pore over" books, rather than read them. Quite simply, we use large or over-dramatic terms to make easy tasks sound harder and poor writing sound grand. I am, of course, guilty of all of these, and more egregious errors. But to my knowledge I have never used the words "muse" or "musing" to describe anything that flows out of my fingertips and onto a blank word processor's screen. Here is why:

First, "musing" is a meaningless act that does not serve the reader well. Webster's defines the root verb "muse" as a process by which one becomes absorbed in thought but does not reach any conclusion. Of what good to someone other than the thinker are anyone's thoughts if they do not reach some meaningful end or make some argument? None. Anyone can sit down and record the inane things that pop into their head during the day. Writers should be above this: they should have something to say.

Second, most who employ the word "musing" in describing their own work are under the false impression that their writing operates on some deep level. This type of thinking is experienced by most writers, including this one, but it is best not to draw attention to it. To say that something is so profound as to be a "musing," only to revisit it later and discover its superficiality, is the most painful of wounds. I prefer to make my own missteps as subtle as possible.

Third, I'm thoroughly convinced that nobody cares about the random thoughts that pass through anyone else's head during the day. Exceptions to the rule may be close friends or loved ones, but nobody wants to read them in a magazine or newspaper. Anyone can walk up to anyone else on the street and ask for a synopsis of what they are "musing" about as they hurry off to work or sip a latté. Those are things that can be had free of charge. Nobody should have to pay for them.

Finally, I believe that no one but philosophers should be invited to share their "musings" in print. Freedom of speech, writing and thought, of course, are essential, but wasting newspaper or magazine space on the often un-learned crowd who populate the media kills trees. We can only afford to lose so many, and it's best if they are felled because an intellectual-not merely a hack with no better material to help him meet a deadline--has something to offer.

Is all of this arrogant? Yes. Do I have any business telling professional writers how to do their jobs? No. I say this only because "musing" in print is a silly, clichéd and often useless practice. "Musing" is something that should be done before the process of writing begins. It should not be the end product.
- Ben Forrest
May 2003
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