I sometimes doubt my words.
I started a story this morning that turned out to be about a magical tree. A magical tree? Hasn’t that been done already? Done and done, as they say.
Almost before I had written the first sentence a little voice in my brain said, “That story’s been told. You are not doing anything new. Who’s going to care?”
All I have are words.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl, in her wonderful book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater, says this:
If it is true that there is nothing new under the sun and that there are only two or three basic human stories worth telling, then the contribution of the playwright is not necessarily the story itself but the way the story is told, word for word. (p. 25)
And here is the tree that I wrote about:
I have spent so many moments in my writing career second-guessing my writing. Only when I focus my attention on the words, on the beauty of a word, on the surprising aspects of one word against the next, only when I give my words their space, do I make my writing come alive.
I have started listening to the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day podcast. The words I discover by listening to the two-minute-long explanation and usage notes enchant me. Reciprocate. Grimalkin. Tatterdemalion.
Being with words? It is my way of being in the moment.
What is your relationship with words? Do you collect words that are special or significant? How do you know when you have found exactly the right word?