Your friendly, neighbourhood Writing Coach is just a little bit distracted today. I am surrounded by rolls of packing paper, ready-to-build cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape.
I’m moving in two weeks ladies, and in the process of packing, I have realized something significant about myself.
I am a book hoarder.
I don’t have lots of useless stuff lying around, and most things have a place – or they will have a place when we get settled in. But I have more books than any one person has the right to own, especially if that person is moving in two weeks.
Seriously. I just counted. I have 8 boxes of books packed so far…and I haven’t even touched my office yet…or my bedroom…or my kids’ bookshelves.
Did I mention that I’M MOVING IN TWO WEEKS!?!
Books are HEAVY man!
When you realize that you have to physically lift and carry every item you own to a new place, and then find a spot for it to live there, you get really good at letting go of sentimental keepsakes. All kinds of clothes, unused dishes, old and worn out furniture and even a few unnecessary books have been sent packing over the past few weeks.
But I *still* have eight boxes of books packed to go, and I am nowhere near the end of them! Books are the heaviest too. They are the biggest pain in the butt to carry from one place to another – but I’m still not willing to let go of a single one in those 8 boxes.
To make matters worse!? At least three of those books are massive, hardcover dictionaries. THREE! Who even needs one dictionary anymore? My phone and computer have three-second-access to every single word – ever – but I have to keep three enormous hardcover dictionaries. Problematic.
Fact is? I love books because I love words. I mean – I love stories and learning and all kinds of other things about books, but the WORDS! When you find that word that just rolls off the tongue and splashes on to the page to create the *perfect* feeling? That is my JAM.
I love it! And there are a couple ways you guys can make that happen more freely and more effectively, when you are in the process of drafting your next writing project too – without stockpiling 3 dictionaries.
How do you pack a wicked vocab?
There are only a few ways to have a super huge vocabulary just sitting there waiting for you to pull out the perfect little morsel of a word, at the drop of a hat. There are no real shortcuts here, so I’m just going to let you have it.
You have to read.
And read some more. And when you aren’t reading? You should probably be reading.
You don’t have to read Shakespeare or Emerson, but you have to be reading something. Read blog posts about your favourite things on your bloglovin‘ reel; read magazine articles; read to your kids; read the newspaper, or even an old Double Digest Archie comic (the only thing I can read in the car without barfing – true story). Just read!
The thing here is that you have to be exploring the different ways other people lace their words together. If you are reading intentionally, you will begin to notice patterns in different writers’ styles. You’ll see which words light up on the page, while others fall flat, and you will start to see how using simple and common words in unexpected ways can feel novel and interesting, and bring your writing style out in your own unique way.
When you notice a jammin’ word? Bank it. Make the back pages of your writing journal an ongoing word bank. Every time you see a cool word, or notice a neat way of using an old word – write it in there.
Once you notice something on purpose, you will start to see it everywhere and you’ll remember it when you need something to fit a sentence together perfectly, in that crucial moment.
You should be putting together a bank of great words for each big writing project anyway, but the banking process I’m talking about here is something you should always be doing. This is the kind of thing that will change your writing practice immensely. You’ll start thinking like a writer.
After that? It’s all in how you use what you’ve got.
Now that you have all of the words hoarded away in your hot little hands, you have to know how to use them. In fact, using everyday words well is even more effective than knowing all kinds of fancy-pants 6-syllable words, because your readers don’t want to go look up every other word you use – they want interest, not pretensions.
The key is in how you use what you’ve got:
A picture is worth a thousand words, baby. That’s the key to making your readers minds go *zzzzing* while they read your stuff. If you can create an image in the mind of your reader and make them feel like it’s playing out around them, you win. That’s called imagery, and it’s the BEST way to take your writing from “That was ok” to “Oh man! That was awesome!”
This is what your grade 9 teacher was talking about (I hope they were, anyway…because this is stuff I taught my grade nine english classes). You have to put yourself back in your gummy shoes, fluorescent cut-offs and Club Monaco tops for a second and remember a few terms from Miss So-and-so’s lectures, back in the day.
- Simile: compare 2 different things, using the words like or as, to show similarities.
“Moving my book collection is like rolling a giant stone up hill, only to watch it roll back down again.”
- Metaphor: (more powerful than simile) stating implicitly, or through the use of certain language, that one thing *is* another thing – to connote specific shared characteristics.
“Moving my book collection is Sisyphus‘ torment.”
- Sensory language: describing that which is experienced by the five senses to create a feeling of “being there” for the reader.
“The old cardboard smell of books fills the room, as I rustle through another dusty text, trying to find a space on the smooth, new shelf.”
- Onomatopoeia: the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named – ironically the weirdest sounding word ever.
“I ripped the box open, and the books crashed to the floor.”
- Synesthesia: describing something that would be observed by one sense, using words that relate to a different sense – to add interest and a sense of the unexpected. It’s also a psychological condition wherein people can actually see or associate colours with sounds or tastes or vice versa…yup – coolest psychological condition ever! Green tastes great!
“I can almost taste sweet victory, as the pile of boxes finally starts to get smaller.”
- Personification: giving something that is not human, human attributes.
“My muscles scream as I carry the last of the boxes.”
Right. So writing is all about the words – obviously – but it’s not all about using big, impressive words all of the time. Those are just a few of the most commonly used literary devices for basic writing.
No, I don’t expect you to memorize them for a quiz next week, but please do think about how you can use these tricks – and other literary devices – to wake up every day language.
Try adding a few of these to your next writing practice, and let me know how it feels to play around with your words a little. Thanks for hanging out! Come back on Thursday for a sneak peak into one of the most beautiful workspaces I’ve ever seen.
Don’t forget to share, pin or tweet this post if you know anybody who needs a reminder to use their words…or if you know anyone with a truck I could borrow?
…I hate moving
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