What a fun, inspiring day! First I hopped into Manhattan and had a delicious cappuccino at the coolest café-meeting place ever, the NoMad Hotel library, with my dear friend and writing buddy, Wendy. The café is designed like a library in a British manor house, complete with a second level and a spiral staircase. Every bookcase had a theme: cooking, architecture, theater. What a perfect setting to talk about books and writing!
And that’s exactly what Wendy and I did. We gave each other updates on our projects, traded encouraging stories of serendipitous encounters, and came up with a promising plan to keep each other on track.
Then I hopped back home and headed over to my local library for a Write Group session hosted by Jim Gwyn, a poet with a long list of awards and credits, a great sense of humor, and a Three Musketeers beard. Some of my Poetry Study Group buddies were there, which made for a cozy evening. What a great time we had!
Jim talked about “unpacking words” and the ways in which a single word can unfold its meaning and reveal untapped riches. Then we randomly came up with a handful of words: pip, hard, trestle, succulent, rue, and bleb. Bleb? Great word, isn’t it? It refers to the swelling on a plant stem.
We all sat for about 15 minutes and wrote a free verse poem using these words — or variations on them. After reading them aloud, we all explored alternate meanings of each word using etymological dictionaries that Jim had pulled off the library’s shelves. “Rue,” for example, is related to repent, regret, and bitter. “Bleb” can mean swollen, but also blister or bubbling.
Armed with this arsenal of fresh words, we all rewrote our poems and read them again. What an amazing journey each poem took! Just changing a few words led the poems in totally new and exciting directions. What a great exercise! I can see what a great tool this will be to draw on. The next time I find myself struggling with a lackluster word choice, instead of just heading to my thesaurus, I can take a few minutes to explore the root of the word I want to punch up — and “unpack the word” as Jim puts it. Often there are multiple meanings in that root that can lead to a more inspired, provocative word choice or even a major shift in direction.
Playing with words — PlayDoh for the mind — what’s more fun than this? Write on!