If a picture speaks a thousand words then why am I still writing?



I love words. I love the way they express a concept and I love the way they flow. I love the variety words offer you and how different words convey different shades of meaning. I love the way words can be subtle but also the way they can be so direct that they hone right in on the situation.

Given that I love words, it’s perhaps not surprising that I have made my living primarily out of my writing skills for the last three decades – working first as a print journalist, then a press secretary, then a public relations practitioner, and more recently as a teacher of effective writing skills. Even one of my hobbies involves writing – fiction writing to be exact.

But are words all they are cracked up to be? Somewhere along the line, have I been sold a lemon and kept right on pretending it was sweet?

The old saying ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ offers a lot of insight in terms of our modern world. Letters have been replaced with Facetime, written words are becoming fewer, and newspapers are going out of business while the volume of YouTube videos has gone into hyper-drive. The popularity of reading has taken a nosedive while instant visual communication is on the ascendency.

Even in my writing courses, I often refer to the importance of visuals. It is acknowledged that one of the main learning styles of almost half the population is visual learning, whereas written communication falls far behind. An example I love to use is the difficulties an IT specialist has in explaining to me how to make changes to something on my computer screen. However, if they send me a screen shot they have almost instant success.

Seemingly in answer to such concerns about pictures being more important than words, I recently developed a new hobby that one day may even become a business. Taking photos!

I have loved taking photos since I was a child but never considered doing it professionally until I hit upon the idea of selling photos through stock photography sites. Although I had doubts about my technical skills, this new venture gave me the motivation to develop them further.

When I investigated the world of stock photography via the Internet, I found that ‘concept’ photos were particularly in demand and that seemed right up my alley. The creative juices flowed as I thought about expressing sayings and concepts through photos.

A few months and quite a lot of hard work later, I have had a variety of photos accepted as stock photos and am loving it. Some of the resulting photos which have been accepted by iStockphoto/Getty Images have included:

·        Don’t put all your eggs in one basket http://api.istockphoto.com/photo/all-your-eggs-in-one-basket-gm603986566-103707693

·        Ladder of success http://api.istockphoto.com/photo/ladder-of-success-gm611085624-105078539

·        Feeding the family http://api.istockphoto.com/photo/wild-swamphen-feeds-her-chcks-gm608638226-104373433

·        Slippery slope http://api.istockphoto.com/photo/children-s-slide-slippery-slope-gm602293072-103505805

Now I can truly say that I love pictures. I love the way a moment in time captured in a single photograph can express so much. I love the way a picture not only conjures up words and thoughts, but also emotions and atmosphere. I love the way pictures are intensively creative and believably normal all at once.

So have pictures now taken over from words in my life? Not at all!

Show me your words through your pictures and I will still show you my pictures through my words. For while pictures can show so much, they are still at the mercy of the viewer’s interpretation and what they already know. Words, on the other hand, can convey new ideas, new thoughts, new impressions that the reader may never have encountered before. They can also lead people to understand specific details, facts and points of view that may otherwise have been beyond their frame of reference. As well, they can conjure up pictures in your mind that aren’t limited by the constraints of everyday reality.

Does that mean my love affair with pictures has been just a passing fad? Wrong on that score too! I now just love them both. Words and pictures, pictures and words – they were always just meant to go together. Apart they are both powerful but together they are creative dynamite!


Unexpected words – make that a paraprosdokian

unexpected wordsI am someone who loves to finish other people’s sentences off for them. I get the wavelength they are on and jump in to kindly help complete their words (just in case they were going to forget!). I don’t do this all the time – that would be annoying. But if I’m getting into a conversation, I sometimes just can’t help myself and the words coming rushing out. That’s all well and good except that sometimes I get it wrong. Then we encounter that awkward moment when they correct me and proceed with what they were actually going to say – something I hadn’t expected at all.

I probably don’t love those moments but at least they add variety. So much of what people say is predictable once you know them that it can be interesting when they say something different. And unexpected words can sometimes add so much spice to life. Such as when someone gives you unexpected praise or reveals an unexpected insight into what makes you tick. On the other hand, unexpected criticism or complaints are not so welcome and we often wish those words had gone unsaid.

Unexpected words can also be fun! There is actually a special term for a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is unexpected or surprising. It is called a ‘paraprosdokian’ – now isn’t that an unexpectedly odd word!

A friend introduced me to these gems just recently, and it was an unexpected pleasure. Listed below are a few of my favourites, courtesy of Paraprosdokians  and Louise Myers Visual Social Media

  • Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.
  • I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  • I didn’t say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Do you like a play on words, or on a stage? If it’s the former, then paraprosdokians could be just your thing. Please let me know if you have a favourite.