Choose your words wisely

Why I'll be using brackish, scuttle and buckshot in future stories

We understand by now that writing is hard work. Many writers don't like the act of writing and instead prefer the joy of having written -- which is totally valid.

We understand by now that writing is hard work. Many writers don't like the act of writing and instead prefer the joy of having written. Me, I really enjoy the writing process, in part because of cheerfully I enjoy words.  Masterfully, in her poem "Tides," Mary Oliver thoughtfully chooses words we don't see every day.

Me, I really enjoy the writing process, in part because of cheerfully I enjoy words. Those word-of-the-day calendars? They're always being gifted to me. I have a running list of words I plan to use one day:

Some, like brackish, are because I like how it feels to write them by hand. Others, such as scuttle, please me to say. Still others -- buckshot is an example -- instantly leap into stories, meeting imagination halfway.

Today, settle in somewhere to find quiet and be present, then read this Mary Oliver poem. First read it silently, in your head, then read it aloud to feel her words on your tongue and kicking against your teeth.

"Tides"

Every day the sea
    blue gray green lavender
pulls away leaving the harbor’s
dark-cobbled undercoat

slick and rutted and worm-riddled, the gulls
walk there among old whalebones, the white
    spines of fish blink from the strandy stew
as the hours tick over; and then

far out the faint, sheer
    line turns, rustling over the slack,
the outer bars, over the green-furred flats, over
the clam beds, slippery logs,

barnacle-studded stones, dragging
the shining sheets forward, deepening
    pushing, wreathing together
wave and seaweed, their piled curvatures

spilling over themselves, lapping
    blue gray green lavender, never
resting, not every but fashioning shore,
continent, everything.

And here you may find me
on almost any morning
walking along the shore so
    light-footed so casual.

Masterfully, Oliver thoughtfully chooses words we don't see every day: undercoat, rutted, strandy. She uses words that feed back to tides and the sea: harbor, gulls, whalebones, barnacle, shore -- without the obvious words we associate with saltwater.

I want to invite you to start a running list today of words you want to use some day, words that speak directly to you both in how they look on the page and sound to your ear. Maybe it takes six months, but once you have 10 words, put them together in a story or poem. Make something of these words that speak to you so.

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