"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Secret Life of Words

I'm thinking of words this morning and their secret meanings and how all writing requires at least to some extent a trancelike state. There is a very good post on this exact subject over at the literary lab

John Gardner's little book, On Becoming a Novelist, has become my new bible. And don't let the size of it fool you. It contains a wealth of information, inspiration, and writing exercises, with help on everything from dealing with the probing questions—“but what do you do?” to writer's block (which he says, theoretically there's no reason one should get.) "If children can build sandcastles without getting sandcastle block the writer who enjoys his work should never be troubled by writer's block." But of course nothing is that simple. "The very qualities that make one a writer in the first place contribute to block."

He says a serious writer is sensitive to language and will find vivid metaphors never before thought of, "not just because he's been taught not to use clich├ęs but because words and their varied meanings fascinate him. For instance how “discover” means “to take the cover off.” "

Are you a born writer? One sign that you may be is if you have a gift for inventing authentically interesting language, a gift for using your own odd words and spying out their secrets.

4 comments:

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I love to take the lid off word meanings by looking them up and considering the description or the synonyms and antonyms.
Another writer told me of an exercise where you write down a word and then its synonym and then you write a synonym for the synonym and on and on. She said after awhile you travel a long way in meaning from the original word.

Anonymous said...

I simply love words and using them in different ways as they are meant to be. In pure form they don't become cliches. AND.. Yvonne, my favorite writer, thank you for your inspirational blog.

Donna Hole said...

I like to think I use inventive language, but sometimes, I just settle for not using cliche's.

Cool post.

.........dhole

Yvonne said...

Tricia, I like that....taking the lid off. And it would be interesting to see what you end up with at the end of the exercise.

Anonymous. Thank YOU for reading. Yes, in pure form perhaps we can beat the cliche out of a phrase?

Hi Donna, And sometimes that is enough. Thanks.