In my writing, I’ll inevitably look back and realize that I’ve used the same word three, seven, ten times.

In a recent series of text messages to a friend, I used the word “stray” in several different ways, never once talking about a stray puppy. Instead, I was straying from the point, talking about places I did and didn’t want to wander into, thinking about the implications of what it meant to journey from a predetermined path into unknown territory.

In a draft essay I wrote about early motherhood, I stumbled across the word “startled,” at least once in each paragraph. I thought I’d been writing about breastfeeding and milk and production and supply. Apparently my subconscious was leaking: it was telling me what a startling experience stumbling into new motherhood truly was.

Our essays have leaks from our subconscious. If you re-read your journal pages, or your notes, or even your business report, count up the words you use with frequency. They may be telling you something important.

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