Tuesday, November 28, 2006


The night before we left for our Thanksgiving trip we watched Akeelah and the Bee. Then we spent the weekend playing Scrabble. We have continued to play at least one game of Scrabble each day we've been back. Good stuff.

I've never been much of a speller. For as much as I read and love all things language related, you'd think I'd be a natural, but I'm just not. I just don't have time for it.

When I write I try to to get things down as quickly a possible. Ideas are viscous, slippery things and if I don't punch the words into the keyboard pronto, they might slither through my fingers and dissappear forever. So I pound it out. I might write a sentance three times in a row different ways, then come back later and pick which one I like best, or cut and paste them together into one good version. It's always a race to the finish, not because I want to be done (though that might have been true in college) but because I get excited about where the essay/paper/letter/email is going and I want to get there. Then if I really like what I've written I want to get it up on the blog or sent off through cyberspace as quickly as possible so the recipient can read it.

Spelling falls to the wayside. Way, way to the wayside. I rely heavily on spell-check.

When Paul was in seminary I would sometimes type his papers. He wasn't a very good typer (times have changed), so he would dictate to me. This proved to be one of our first marital tests. Paul is the ying to my yang which makes for good balance and sometimes for crazy-making.

Paul's way of writing a paper is the dead opposite of mine. He writes one draft. Perfectly. SLOWLY. He mulls over each sentence, rolls it around inside his brain and when it is just how he wants it he puts it on the page...or in this case, would speak it aloud for me to type it out. I spent long intervals sitting at the ready, fingers on keys, waiting to type something. This made me long to go do other things besides help my new husband with his schoolwork.

But, as nerve wracking as it was for one used to barrelling through at a breakneck pace and tidying up later, this was a marvel to watch. He would craft each sentance with perfect syntax and punctuation and when he got to the end of the paper that was it. Hit print. Done. No revisions or spell-checking necessary.

He kicks my butt at Scrabble. Every time.

This why I hated Scrabble when we first played on our honeymoon. I remember sitting poolside in Jamaica (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh) with the Scrabble board between us staring blankly at my tiles....frozen. A resort waiter came and sat behind me. The longer I sat there stupid and unmoved the more figety he got. He finally reached around me and started rearranging my tiles and whispering to me what I should play. He was good, but I found this annoying and slightly humiliating. I imagine now that I got up and went for a swim while Paul and the waiter finished the game, but I don't think that's how it really happened. That just makes a better story. Really, I'm sure Paul and the waiter both helped me kindly, Paul won gracisously but I was mad and bored and never wanted to play again. And never did.

But I can now appreciate the slow strategy in Scrabble. It's a challenge for me. A good challenge to not just put down whatever word comes to mind first. It's a practice in patience and planning for me to look at the board and use the special squares to my advantage. It's a discipline to hold onto my "s" for good use later then to waste it on "is" early in the game.

I do get bored with myself staring stupidly at the tiles sometimes and will throw down a cheap word just to move the game along, but I'm learning.

In my writing I think I'll look for a healthy balance. I love getting to the end of a post (like this one) and find myself wrapping it up in a way I hadn't planned or expected. That is what makes writing fun for me---the discovery is in the writing itself---rather than being a record of what I've already discovered. But maybe all the Scrabble playing will help me to spell better and look at things a little more closely.

Please disregard any spelling mistakes in this post.


Anonymous said...

You really should read Stefan Fatsis' Word Freaks. It's a brilliantly written book, and it will make you want to play better Scrabble, as evidenced by last year, when I played about 700 games.

emdunbar said...

I call that the perfect present for Paul...who is probably reading this, but will be so stoked about a Scrabble-ish book that it will be worth the lack of surprise. Thanks for the tip, Jeremy. It's fun to know you are reading this!

Hope said...

Jon and I have been working on our scrabble as well. Jon was astonished when I suggested we play because normally I think the game is lame. Well, I'm putting myself and my word power on the line and it's fun to play and try my best to outwit him. SO far my attempts haven't been too successful. We'll be ready for the rematch at Christmas!

emdunbar said...

I bought a Scrabble dictionary yesterday AND I beat Paul last night. Woot. It's on at Christmas--the first annual Dunbar Family Scrabble Tourney.