A Love Affair With Words
*When this blog was written, you’ll notice the Plague of 2020, aka the “Quarantine and Lockdown for COVID-19,” had yet to happen. At that point the new year looked full of promise and hope for better things to come. Despite the lock-down, I managed to do a great deal of work on book two, more of which will be covered in another blog.
It’s the next to last day of 2019, the snow has been falling for hours and promises to continue, and I’m enjoying it from inside my cozy home here in Kirkwood Hollow.
For Christmas Quillan and Kim gave me a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing which is great reading. The first half of the book details his childhood, college years, marriage, children, and descent into addiction. He includes his earliest writings and eventual rise to the world’s writing phenom he is today.
King’s writing career started in newspapers, and he credits an early editor with teaching him the most important lesson about writing: Use only those words that are necessary to tell the story. Writers worth their salt use vocabulary that is rich and suitable for their purpose. Be direct. Don’t try to “fancify” your writing—if you mean “cussed,” don’t say “spoke with less decorum than his dear mother would have approved.”
The value of language resonates with me. A good deal of my writing time is spent searching for precisely the right word. The Thesaurus on my desk is well-thumbed and the one built into the Word program is endlessly fascinating . Plus I simply love words. I love the feel of a word as it rolls around in my mouth. I love the sounds words make. I love hearing old language and exploring the rich variety of word meanings and where and how they originated.
(“Nerd.” I know that’s what you just thought to yourself, and I happily claim this title.)
When I was teaching creative writing, I loved an assignment I adapted from Nazim Hikmet’s poem (I always called it “Travel Sack,” because this is the metaphorical essence of the message of the poem. It probably has an entirely different title.) The Turkish poet imagined being adrift on a raft and the only thing with him was this sack in which you carried a few precious things. “Words I Love” was one of them. I would ask 8th and 9th grade writers to collect their favorite words and keep an on-going list. These were words they loved because of their definition, or because of the way they were pronounced, or how they felt in the mouth when pronounced. Words that made them giggle or gave them chills. (I did this with first grade poets one time and the word list was amazing!!)
So thank you, Stephen King, and thank you to my son Quillan and daughter-of-my-heart Kim!
Some Favorite Words From my Life Long Notebook** are:
sussuration purple waggle
gaggle vermillion tickle
serendipity sticky buns hominy
pagoda cinnamon mocha
tiger pompous nitty-noddy
debate willow horse
synchronicity blubber kinky boots
shepherd persimmon spritz
pish posh spirit peace
panache clandestine automaton
murmur kooshla aurora
Forgotten words weave powerful magic spells
**The Life Long Notebook is from George Betts’ “Autonomous Learner Model” for gifted students. Elementary aged children, teenagers, young adults, and adults of all ages have tried this with similar success. The notebook is a place to collect myriad treasures-- wishes, dreams, lists (like favorite words), people, places and a wide variety of information about personal preferences and loves.