The Randomness of Words


It’s a curious thing.  Ever since we moved to Devon in June 2017 I have experienced long spells of writer’s block.  I think this is probably due to our massive change in life circumstances (not being at work any more) and location (suburbs to countryside) and there has been much to absorb and become used to.

I am pleased to record that our move has proved to be an entirely positive experience but it has stunted my writing output more than I anticipated.

I found myself returning to an exercise often used in writing tutorials which is designed to stimulate the creative process.

It is quite simple and you may like it to try it too.

Just choose three words at random and write whatever comes to mind about them.  You may find them by opening a book you are reading, or a newspaper, or a word generator on the net. Don’t over-think the process, just focus on the words that jump out at you.

Today my words (from the newspaper) are:




Three:  I love three.  It’s a magic number often used as a public speaking tool.  By having three key points, you engage an audience, do not give them too much to think about, and come across as succinct and concise rather than a speaker who is rambling off in myriad directions.

I learned once that three is used for teaching survival techniques:  three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food, three months without hope.

Songs and nursery rhymes reflect a love of three:  little pigs, French hens, blind mice etc.  Three is the holy trinity: Father, son and holy spirit.

Three is an odd number, yet it is neat and tidy.  Think of a triangle.  Put yourself at the top and two equally loved people at the bottom.  Perfectly balanced.

Two triangles, one upside down on top of the other create a star shape.  Three points, times two, reflect in perfect harmony.

Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind”.

Remembrance: Who can think of remembrance without picturing the blood red poppies that spring up on Flanders fields?  They act as powerful reminders of the losses of war.  Somehow remembrance is a weightier word than memory.  In remembrance of … suggests an active response.  Remembering is to put yourself into a scene and re-live it alongside those you are recalling.  This can be a painful, poignant or joyful act – or a combination of all these.

A memory can be fleeting; perhaps a response from a familiar sight, scent or sound, but it is lighter in essence than remembrance.  If memory is a nod, remembrance is homage.

There are festivals of remembrance, days of remembrance, such as the Mexican Day of the Dead, and annual acts of remembrance at the Cenotaph and war memorial sites throughout the Commonwealth.  Remembrance honours those whom we have lost and what better way than in the Ode of Remembrance, taken from Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem ‘For the Fallen’ …

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Backpack:  A backpack, or rucksack, is a useful way to carry weight that is evenly distributed on your back, via shoulder straps.  I noticed recently while driving at around the time of the school run that almost invariably, students use backpacks to carry their books.  This is a much better option than my recollection of my school briefcase – made of stiff tan leather, the briefcase was unwieldy and cumbersome and dragged at my back whichever hand I carried it in. Laden with books, it was heavy and awkward to carry and I invariably banged one of my ankles with it when I ran for the bus.

To ‘unpack’ your emotional baggage is quite the buzzword at the moment and it puts me in mind of how everyone carries round a backpack of memories.

You are travelling along with your load behind you.

You cannot see it but you know it is there and you can feel its weight.  If it casts too great a shadow behind you, it is time to unhook your backpack, open it up and examine it. You can jettison some of the stuff you don’t need any more, which lightens your burden.  You can share some of your sadness with others which lightens your load. You can stroke tenderly the loving memories you have taken out, hold them close then put them away again, safe in the knowledge that they travel with you always.  You can cry a box of tears then store it away in the backpack, with nothing lingering to take forward.

Your backpack is another useful tool in the process of healing. It represents what is behind you, not what is in front of you.

The idea of backpacking is that it represents a kind of freedom – you travel without preconceived notions; you meet many people along the way and there is room for understanding and healing.  A metaphor for life, perhaps?

So there it is.  Three random words generated this raft of disparate thoughts.  Try it yourself!


3 thoughts on “The Randomness of Words

  1. Sarah Sparks

    I think that you unlocked the writer’s block…beautiful lyrical writing inspired by three simple words..I very much enjoyed reading your interpretation. Thank you


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