“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”
Brimming with New Year’s resolutions, I find most of them have to with words. I continue to work on a novel that is nearly where it needs to be, on the illustrations and text of a second picture book, and on a raft of poetry that is close to being seaworthy.
Throughout these endeavors I am accompanied by the Writer Elkhound, Thora, who proves time and again to be adroit at sniffing out new details: the curl of an old leaf, a twig that resembles a rune. Her kindly and playful growls keep me on track.
Words don’t have to be surrounded by hyperbole or highlighted with strings of exclamation marks to pack a wallop.
Once again I quote the wonderful poet, Emily Dickinson:
“A word is dead when it is said some say. I say it just begins to live that day.”
Three activities that help rejuvenate the well of words:
Reading aloud: Currently reading Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin zombie books to my husband. As I scour through the gazillionth version of my novel, I read every page aloud.
Eavesdropping: harder to do during these pandemic days, but fruitful never-the-less. Also accessing handy-dandy journals I find some overheard entries that still make me laugh and, or, cry. “I like markers…” “I like those gel pens.” “Here’s one you might like.” “Now we’ll go home and color like kids.” Two older women selecting coloring books.
Reading, reading, reading: Most recently – The Mahabharata, The Poetic Edda, D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods and Giants, Nnedi Okorafor’s trilogy Binti, Kassandra Montag’s After the Flood, and The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman.
What books are you ringing in the New Year with?
“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”
—Kahlil Gibran (from “Sand and Foam”)
Apprehension keeps me up at night. Curiosity stirs me to wakefulness. And wakefulness, aided by a large mug of coffee, brings new words or words used in new ways into focus.
“As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.”
The need to complete this newest book for 2021 demands a culling of excess words and a re-immersing in the story.
“It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.”
Reading these quotes and others on my quote board are reminders to keep going and signposts along the way.
“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.”
If you haven’t read Capote for awhile, pick up or check out a copy of A Christmas Memory, it’s full of those musical notes.
“Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
YES. In the company of books we travel through time, converse with Benjamin Franklin or Maya Angelou, with Dickinson or the Bard of Avon. We find new voices, new friends, new perceptions. And that is how we mend. One word at a time.