Evolving words

This summer I spoke a lot about storytelling as a fundamental tool for helping the human animal to survive and thrive.

In researching this idea further for the online course, I discovered all sorts of fascinating facts that made animals seem somehow more human, or rather, made humans seem rather more animal. Did you know that animals communicate symbolically? Bees pass on information to their comrades about the distance, difficulty and value of potential food sources, through gestures contained in a dance. Did you know that animals pretend? Young chimpanzees will take care of logs and other objects as if they were babies. And did you know that we are not the only species that dream? Neuroscience has found that zebra finches seem to practice singing specific songs in their sleep. The same neurons light up in their brains, as when they are awake and singing out loud.

Through Wild Words I present a view of written language as a fluid animal.

Teaching at Swanwick Writer’s Summer School last month, I therefore very much appreciated linguistics expert David Crystal’s approach to language. He emphasises,

…the human ability to be linguistically creative and to adapt language to suit the demands of diverse settings

It’s an optimistic view, which, as in Wild Words work, demonstrates how human beings expand into their potential, rather than reduces their behaviours to ‘problems’. This is especially evident when you read his defence of the language used in texting, as reported in The Guardian

People think that the written language seen on mobile phone screens is new and alien, but all the popular beliefs about texting are wrong….There is no disaster pending. We will not see a new generation of adults growing up unable to write proper English. The language as a whole will not decline. In texting what we are seeing, in a small way, is language in evolution.

We need to remain alert to that voices (internal as well as external) that heap negativity upon the way we function. In the same way that texting is not the death-knell of the English language, the problems on your writing page are not a catastrophe for your career as a writer.

They are evidence of your body-mind trying things out, in order to find the best way through. We need to support, rather than undermine that process. When we make those strategies into the enemy, we only strengthen their hold.

There’s a whole world of communication that goes on between non-human animals.

Write piece of prose or poetry in which you take the voice of an animal. Use first person point-of-view to tell the reader about the life of your chosen animal, its hopes and dreams.