Writer does not necessarily equal Wordsmith

I’m a writer who doesn’t play scrabble… never been good at plucking words out of letters given to me.  (Thin air is a different story.  pun intended.)  SO anyway I’ve never played these online scrabble games.  I think I know why.  The computer scientist in me says I can generate a list of words, create a file, and search it with simple regular expressions… bam, pow, I’d rock the casbah.

Except that’s cheating.  As, I believe, is randomly popping in letters until you find a word that works in the software’s dictionary.  The whole point of scrabble is to put your vocabulary knowledge into competition with the other players’ mental dictionary.

And apparently I’m not alone.

My recent experience spending a few days on a writing retreat (and then another week on vacation writing tons more) has proven at least one thing to me: words are not something I’m lacking.  So why is it that finding the right word to fit a thought is easy, and finding the right one to fit a set of randomly chosen letters is hard?

I guess that’s the point of the game, though, isn’t it.  That’s the challenge – making a word using a process that’s the reverse of the intuitive one.  It’s also why making a database or randomly throwing out tiles for the computer to reject or accept is cheating; it’s not the point of the game.  Scrabble’s really all about improving your own skill by competing against other people.  If you’re using an external system to win, you’re not challenging or improving yourself at all.

And where’s the fun in that?


  1. I am *terrible* at Scrabble! I can come up with words, but I can’t play them any kind of strategy. My husband kicks my butt every time–also at Boggle. I can only seem to see four-letter words!

  2. Stringing those words together beautifully and coherently is yet another skill altogether. Then it’s not just an intellectual process, but an artistic one as well. That’s a different sense and requires the brain halves work together. Like music.

  3. Somewhat related, I’ve been reading song lyrics recently with a twisted view – as poetic flash fiction. Good songwriters can put together some amazing amounts of information in a very small number of words.

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