free the pen, a blog for writers

September 2, 2011


Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 7:20 pm
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Years ago I thought it was cheating to use a thesauras. That probably sounds silly, I know, but I thought using a thesauras was tantamount to cheating and I wanted my writing to be original, creative and MINE.

But, in a writing workshop one winter, I sat with 60 writers who spoke about the tools they wouldn’t do without. I was stunned when several of them stated that they couldn’t or wouldn’t sit to write without a thesauras.

Listening to them threw me back on my own crazy thinking. At the time, I believed I had to depend solely on my own wisdown, learn from the bottom up so to speak, and I wouldn’t dream of using a book to supply me with words. After all, didn’t good writers come up with everything on their own?

At this point, I can only laugh at myself looking back on my strange and dysfunctional belief that the only way I was going to become a good writer was to dig deep and do it alone. Alone? Really? Then it dawned on me: I was raised believing that if I needed help I was deficient or weak. Are any of you relating to this? The fact is that with any craft, craftsmen use tools — tools refine the creative process. No wonder I was struggling; I might as well have written with stone and chisel.

Over decades of furiously writing, I have learned that this pattern of thinking created more problems than it was worth, ones that I could have sidestepped if only I had opened and allowed myself to receive the tools of the masters. But there again, another old belief pattern: it is better to give than receive. In my mind receiving help meant I was selfish and there was no way I wanted to be selfish. Everyone knows selfishness is a negative attribute. Don’t we?

I’ve met many writers during the years  who wouldn’t let anyone comment on their work because they wanted to present  their raw and original work. Then when agents wouldn’t accept their manuscripts because they needed more work or had major errors in plot and characterization, the writers went home and wept. In so many ways, writing has healed, opened up and changed my life. It hasn’t been just the written word; it has been the psychological, spiritual, emotional and mental process of it all. Being a writer demands ingratiating self confrontation.

So go ahead, write your story with your own thoughts, then let someone help you find the diamond in the charcoal.  That’s what my thesauras  does for me and subsequently, I too, now depend on that handy dandy little book. It is a joy of a helper and it emboldens me to study and learn new words. It has taught me to reach out for help. Not only that, it gives it.

Until next time,

Keep the pen moving,




  1. I wouldn’t be without the Thesaurus – no doubt about it – but the more I use it the more I realize that Show, Don’t Tell usually replaces what I’m trying to say. On other occasions, I’m fishing for a word and can only come up with a synonym.

    Comment by Deborah Owen — September 2, 2011 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

    • Have you seen the book on synonym/antonyms? I haven’t bought it but it looked great!

      Comment by freethepen — September 2, 2011 @ 9:54 pm | Reply

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