Fall in Love With Language

by Ruthanne Reid | 53 comments

English is so weird.

No, really. We have only 26 letters and a hodgepodge vocabulary that seems to make fun of itself. We use insane spelling and restrictive grammar that make no logical sense.

Fall in Love With Language

I once heard the joke that English doesn't “borrow” from other languages; it follows them into dark alleys, knocks them out, and takes their wallets.

Nobody can tell me that isn't true. It leads, after all, to this kind of nonsense:

contraction madness

Yet somehow, we use this cockamamie language to create beauty and power, to communicate multi-layered concepts and share one another's lives. We use our broken, Frankensteinian tongue to reshape entire world views, to give hope, and to create empathy. That's why, in spite of its flaws, I love it.

If you're going to be a writer, you need to learn to love it, too—even when it drives you crazy.

Why All This This Matters

Before I go into examples of language I love, I need you to know that there are two crucial reasons why you need this:

  1. Loving language will show you how it's done well, giving you more tools in your toolbox when you want to express a concept or convey a scene.
  2. Loving language will remind you why you're doing this crazy writing thing when it gets hard. That reminder can keep you going in the darkest of times.

Most of us can remember the first time we wanted to write.

For some of us, it was recent, possibly inspired by some other book's success, or because we found escape/comfort/confirmation in something we picked up and read.

It's important that you latch onto the thing that inspired you, and that you start to figure out why it did.

Falling in love with language means falling in love with the rhythm of a sentence, with the power of word-placement, and the power of connotation. It means knowing what words really mean outside of a dictionary.

Note that just like any love, this is an intense, intimate, and extremely personal experience. I can't tell you WHAT to fall in love with, nor should I. What I can do is show you some of the things I've loved, and why, and hopefully teach you how to look for things to love.

It's absolutely okay if none of them resonate with you. The goal is to know what moves you to love language. My examples will hopefully just show you how to find them.

Falling in Love with Language

 

It's a deeply personal experience, and hard to forget. In his book Surprised By Joy, C. S. Lewis attributed feeling true joy (not “happiness”) as a result of reading certain words:

[T]here came a moment when I idly turned the pages of the book and found the unrhymed translation of Tegnner's Drapa and read:

I heard a voice that cried
Balder the beautiful
Is dead, is dead—

I knew nothing about Balder; but instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote) and then […] found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.

In that moment, the words carried him out of himself and somewhere else. He fell in love with the language.

For me, those moments happened first through Tolkien's lesser-known works, such as The Silmarillion and the posthumously published Lays of Beleriand.  For the sake of using something a little more familiar, I'll quote The Hobbit: 

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gloaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.

Read that out loud. I dare you.

There's power in these words.

I still hear it in John Huston's voice. Phrases like light they caught to hide in gems on hilt of sword conjures a truly magical feeling for me, harkening to something greater and more other than I can define, like a memory too distant to truly recall.

In other words, reading this gives me an escape by taking me out of this world and into another—which is why I strive so hard to do exactly that in my own books.

See, here's the thing: if you don't love the language, if you have yet to fall in love with it in some way, your reader may not fall in love with yours.

This is the true meaning of Robert Frost's quote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” It means that if you're not passionate about the words you put down, your reader will struggle to connect with them, too.

Think back. You want to write; you want to badly, or you wouldn't be here. What did you read that moved you to become a writer? It may be difficult to remember off-hand; it may be that you have story ideas, but you haven't fallen in love with language yet.

That's okay. You still can.

How to Fall in Love with Language

Falling in love with language can happen with just about any piece of writing—which is why it's so important to read outside your chosen genre. Francine Prose puts it this way in her book Reading Like a Writer:

The well-made sentence transcends time and genre. A beautiful sentence is a beautiful sentence, regardless of when it was written, or whether it appears in a play or a magazine article.

A Few Things I've Loved

One of the times that happened to me was in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. Now, this book is literary fiction; it's not my usual cup of tea. It has no magic and no monsters, no supernatural elements of any kind, and yet it's one of my favorite books ever. Why? Because Zevin uses the English language with the skill of a master origami artist.

I am about to quote a line from that book.

Fair warning:

You will probably have an emotional reaction to it.

She was pretty and smart, which makes her death a tragedy. She was poor and black, which means people say they saw it coming.

You probably just went, “Holy !#@$%.”

That was Zevin's intent. And yet, is this really phrased in a way that isn't true to life? Can you look at it and say no one in your life would fall into one or both of those categories? Zevin has portrayed a keen observation of the human heart both thought-provoking and infuriating, poignant and pointed until it's as real as anything that happens on the news.

It causes the reader to react, which in turn helps the reader to empathize with what the protagonist chooses to do. This is effective writing.

Here's another example: have you read The Book Thief? The first line of this book is spoken by Death, and it's one heck of an opening:

*** HERE IS A SMALL FACT ***

You are going to die.

I love this use of language. Suddenly, the atmosphere for this book is set. The narrator's attitude is outlined, along with a possibly morbid sense of humor. And from this point on, you already know there is no safety net if you read on. This has set the tone and the rhythm for the whole book.

Another example comes from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss:

If this story is to be something resembling my book of deeds, we must begin at the beginning. At the heart of who I truly am. To do this, you must remember that before I was anything else, I was one of the Edema Ruh.

This book is high fantasy, which is very much my taste, but what I love here can be broken down in a couple of parts: Rothfuss builds to a climax with each statement as a step, so that when you reach the words Edema Ruh, even though you have no idea who or what they are, you feel the power of that name. You feel that it means something, that there's a history and a dignity and some kind of inherant worth there. He's created mystique not by telling you what the Edema Ruh are (though of course, he eventually does), but by showing that this identification means more than everything this person has accomplished in his life.

That's power.

A Few More Things I've Loved

Another random example is from Bossypants, Tina Fey's autobiography. This is a funny woman, no matter what one may think of her politics, as her description of impending puberty shows:

At ten I asked my mother if I could start shaving my legs. My dark shin fur was hard to ignore in shorts weather, especially since my best friend Maureen was a pale Irish lass who probably doesn't have any leg hair to this day. My mom said it was too soon and that I would regret it. But she must have looked at my increasingly hairy and sweaty frame and known that something was brewing.

Brewing, indeed. For those of us who are far enough past this unpleasant process to laugh at it, that is pretty funny.

How about this one from The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin:

Her boredom rose so strong in her sometimes that it felt like terror: it took her by the throat.

I felt that. I felt it, as though that terror-boredom were my own. I have just empathized with a character whose life is so different from my own that she should feel like an alien.

How about some more humor, this time by Terry Pratchett in The Color of Magic: A Novel of Discworld.

It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going around to atheists’ houses and smashing their windows.

That made me laugh hard. (Maybe it won't do that for you, and that's okay. Like I said, this is all a deeply personal thing.)

I'll end with one of my absolute favorite authors, Neil Gaiman (you MIGHT have noticed I quote him all the time). His use of language thrills me, amuses me, shocks me, and grips me. Try some of the humor in American Gods:

He decided that if he were a real woodsman, he would slice off a steak and grill it over a wood fire. Instead, he sat on a fallen tree and ate a Snickers bar and knew that he really wasn’t a real woodsman.

Or this disturbing one from Trigger Warning:

There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

Or this outright terrifying if deceptively subtle statement from Neverwhere:

Richard found himself wondering whether Mr. Vandemar was the kind of person to whom you said, “Don’t hurt me,” and, if he was, whether it would do any good.

Oh my word. Poor Richard. That's an absolutely horrifying place to find himself, and yet in the particular phrasing of this, you can see two things: one, Richard is in deep trouble, and two, Richard is in mild shock. He's clearly in great danger, but he's not capable of full emotional response at the moment. You can feel his numbness, the fear that's crept in and frozen his heart.

Read, and Fall in Love

The more you read, and the more you react to what you read, the more you'll fall in love with it.

You'll have your own list. The books above are some of mine, but I certainly don't expect you to share them. I expect you to have your own.

Maybe you've never made a list before of lines or books that helped grow your love of language. Well, good news: it's time to start building one.

I'm going to end with this Neil Gaiman quote (I did warn you) from M is for Magic:

Stories you read when you're the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you'll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.

Have you fallen in love with language yet? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Maybe you already have a list of phrases and books that helped you fall in love with language. Maybe you've never thought about it before. Either way, it's time to have some fun with it now.

Today, I won't ask you to write pages upon pages. Instead, I want you to craft something small—a paragraph, or perhaps just a single sentence.

You can start anywhere you want: you could write about the final face-off between your protagonist and their nemesis, or you could write about making breakfast this morning. When it comes to language we can fall in love with, no topic or genre is off limits.

Take fifteen minutes to write just a line or two. Play with the words and try new ideas until you hit upon a sentence (or a few sentences) you really like.

Share your masterpiece in the comments. Then, read your fellow writers' work and let them know how their writing makes you fall in love with language.

BONUS: I want to know what made you fall in love with language in the first place. Share some of your absolute favorite phrases and books in the comments below. Now, remember, there's no judging here; everyone has different tastes, so when you respond to other writers' choices, just enjoy the variety.

You might even discover a few new books you haven't read yet. I know I'm looking forward to that!

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Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

53 Comments

  1. Savannah

    “Shall we dance, friend of my heart?”
    One of my favorite quotes from the second book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. But it is not what a young man said to a young woman in a ball room surrounded by friends who were already dancing on a clean, marble floor. It was said by a young man to his dragon, with whom he shared a more intimate bond than what exists between the most passionate of lovers. And they were about to fight an enemy whose army far out numbered there own. Surrounded by fire and blood, they “danced” together, defending themselves and each other. From just that one line leading up to the battle, I can see in slow motion the majesty and beauty of Eragon and Saphira fighting for each other and for their whole world. I can’t describe it, but I can see it.

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      This is what I was talking about in my post: it is hard to quote a mere seven words out of context. Once you explained the scene, the the question becomes fraught with meaning that just isn’t there without knowing that story.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Oh, I LOVE that!! It’s got so much power – and mind you, I haven’t read the Inheritance Cycle yet (yes, I know, I’m way behind). It sounds like there’s so much history there, so much depth of emotion; a real intimacy, and maybe a hint of sadness. I just love the way it’s phrased.

      Your explanation just deepens it even further. This is a terrific choice!

    • Savannah

      Thank you! I am delighted that you like it so much as well. I agree, it is so full of depth! The Inheritance Cycle is my personal favorite book series and I would definately recommend it! There is a scene in the third book (I promise, no spoilers!) Where two similarly bonded characters are separated permanently through death – at least in a way. I was listening to the audiobook in my car and sobbed the whole way home from work hearing this scene. I made a note to listen to it again when I come to the point of needing inspiration for a scene involving a painful loss.
      One other quote that I love is from I believe the fifth book in the Harry Potter series: “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” You are probably familiar with it, but just in case you are not, it is the spell that must be said for the Marauders Map (a very useful tool) to be used. Though I was an adult when I read this for the first time, it made me feel like a child who was about to get away with the coolest thing ever. I still feel the mischevious smile coming on every time I see those words 🙂

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Savannah, what a great piece of writing. It reminds me for some reason of a very good martial arts demonstration – fluidity and passionate energy. Is your submission going to grow into a story?

    • Savannah

      Thank you, Jonathan! I am glad you liked my post so much! While the quote that I described above is one of my favorites and means something special to me, it is not mine! It is from a book written by Christopher Paolini. The discription that I wrote explains in my own words the scene in which the quote was spoken. While I wish I could claim it as a snippet of my own story, sadly it is not. I think I see what you mean about the martial arts though – imagining all the quick fighting moves but seeing them happen in slow motion. Is that what you were implying?
      But anyway, while that bit of writing will not be growing into a story for me, as it is already in someone else’s, I am writing a story and hoping that mine will be as meaningful to someone is Christopher Pasolini’s has been to me!

  2. Bruce Carroll

    I would have been better helped if the section “Why All This This Matters” had come first. I failed to connect with almost every example, which is not to say I don’t love and appreciate language, just that those particular examples didn’t touch me, personally.

    As for what first made me want to write, I have no idea. What eventually made me start writing was seeing it as a potential source of income. (Granted, probably not a lot of income.)

    My favorite quotes are usually heavily dependent on context, so it is hard to quote just a sentence or two instead of entire paragraphs or even entire chapters. As a child, my favorite book was “The Gismo from Outer Space” by Keo Felker Lazarus. My favorite passage from that was a scene in which two teenage boys explain how to find their home (out of the millions of homes on Earth) to an alien. If it isn’t an entire chapter, it is close. It seemed very real to me as a child. I’ve reread it since, and it wasn’t quite so real.

    As a teen, I really enjoyed a story entitled “In His Image,” which I can’t even find information about online. That entire story was a masterpiece. The most poignant are the last eight words, “…and spread Christianity over this planet called Earth,” but without the whole setup of two missionaries traveling to a distant planet, their debate over whether these aliens are made “in His image,” and the description of the aliens and how they live (which turns out to be a description of human beings, but we don’t know that at this point), those last eight words don’t carry much meaning. Or surprise. (Looking back, it is entirely possible this is the story that first made me want to be a writer. I can’t say for sure, though.)

    I can also think of some movie quotes, which count because movies are written, and yet don’t count because they have a specific delivery to them. One of my favorites is the poem by Vada Sultenfuss at the end of “My Girl.” I can almost recall that one from memory:

    Weeping willow, with your tears running down,
    Why do you always weep and frown?
    Is it because he left you one day?
    Is it because he could not stay?

    He found shelter in your shade.
    You thought his laughter would never fade.
    On your branches he would swing.
    Do you long for the happiness that day would bring?

    Weeping willow, stop your tears,
    For there is something to calm your fears:
    You think death has ripped you forever apart,
    But I know he’ll always be in your heart.

    (Makes me tear up just writing it.)

    Okay, here is my masterpiece, well crafted sentence:

    I have yet to write my best work!

    (I’m also fond of a line from my WIP, “You see…darkness is my ally,” which also makes no sense without context.)

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      What a great idea, Bruce! I’ve edited the post to reflect that excellent suggestion. 🙂

      Your examples are just fantastic; I can feel the power here; it made me tear up *reading* it.

      And I’ll tell you what – it’s probably the kind of reader I am, but your line from your WIP made me shiver without context. I can imagine so many scenarios that go with that, all of them world-altering. That’s a terrific example!

    • Bruce Carroll

      Thanks for your kind words, Ruthanne.

  3. Jugal Jain

    “Here I am, reading about how doves are really human souls, and always in the back of my mind is you.”

    Three months into our relationship my girlfriend texted these words to me. And I fell in love with them. And I fell in love with her.

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      Wow, Jugal! Those are some powerful words, no question, and they do a beautiful job of communication admiration and a sense of mystery and love.

    • Savannah

      I love this, Jugal! So few words and yet so much love and tenderness implied!

  4. Sara

    “The depth of the stupidity of the things you will say sometimes is unimaginable.”
    I read this in an article in the New York Times last weekend. I was so caught off guard, but completely enlightened to the truth of this statement. I love when language not only strengthens the story its intended to tell, but is also so strong that it can stand alone as the beginning of a whole different story in and of itself. Language it is a gateway for us to share the stories that shape our lives.

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      Wow, Sara; that IS a terrific line. It’s so true, stated wryly, and yet absolutely inarguable. I love this example!

  5. Jean Blanchard

    A few cows were grazing; lifting and lowering their broad, black faces, chins dripping in the juicy green edges of the water-meadow. Aiden breathed in the dawn mist, and felt infused with its filtered sunshine and the sound of peace stippled with small whirring insects. The cows sauntered nearer, trampling the flowers at their feet, releasing the sweet incense of spring. 61 words

    Reply
    • Ruth

      Beautifully written. Only suggestions: A few cows grazed (rather than were grazing) and Aiden breathed in the dawn mist, infused with … (omit “felt”)
      Great!

    • Jean Blanchard

      Thank you, Ruth. I’m taking your advice and amending my little piece. Thanks again.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I love this, Jean. Your word-choices are just wonderful; you’ve done a great job in particular of calling on all five senses.

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Jean you are one of the most consistent writers I have encountered on this site. Thanks for an example of how it’s done. I love the word stippled. I don’t have much occasion to use it but it shows up at moments that make me laugh.

  6. Debra johnson

    I love language but language doesn’t love me. While I understand nouns, verbs, periods, commas, question marks and exclamation point the rest are foreign to me. I try and try but have really never under stood the other things.( and I am 51) But yet I write on.

    At the same time I have read books where I have said “I can write better than that” and have set out to do that- write I mean. Whether it was better or not is a judgement call. At some point someone may see one of my books and say the same thing, sparing a love of love of writing for the next generation.

    But in itself wouldn’t that be good, because it may lead someone to a passion in writing they will never forget?

    Its amazing what words can do- or not do……………..

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      As long as your passion keeps you writing, Debra, that’s what matters! Loving language can include grammar and punctuation, but I believe it surpasses that. It sounds like you’ve got a healthy sense of competition, too, which always lends some fun. 🙂

      I do know that it can trip me up, personally, when I read things that are far better than what I write; I find myself sinking into the feeling I could never be “that good.” For me, loving the stories and words themselves helps me to get past that. How about you? What do you rely on?

    • Debra johnson

      Good question, I don’t know what I rely on other than knowing if I didn’t write I would not be me. And I want to be here for a long time, and I want to live to write because I write to live.

  7. Renee

    I woke early before dawn and as the morning arrived I felt a peaceful array of feelings. Life, death, warm, cold, wet, dry. My friend just passes away because of a tragic senseless accident. It makes one stop and reflect, think and pray. Life continues on even if we want it to pause, stop to catch our breath! There is no stopping time.

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      Wow, Renee, this sounds very real and raw. I’ve been through that so many time, and wished it would take a breath, too.

      Where would you take this paragraph next?

    • Renee

      I have no idea I just wrote about my morning:) I have always thought it would be so fun to do some writing, I have never really done anything like this and not sure that I’m cut out for it or have the talent for it. I am just experimenting to see if I can do it. I really don’t know the first place to start.

  8. Ruth

    Hi Ruthanne: Just wanted to say, this is one of the most significant, exciting posts you’ve ever shared. In the midst of poetry writing at the moment where every word counts, all I can say is every writer needs to keep reading and appreciating how others have expressed themselves. Words transform our writing and our lives. I love Pat Conroy’s work but have no specific quote at the moment. Thanks for the inspiration to keep working at it.

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      Thank you, Ruth! It was a joy to write (and not just because I got to explore some of my favorite books). Pat Conroy is a terrific choice, too! Make that list and keep it at hand for those dry periods. 🙂

  9. TerriblyTerrific

    I share the love of this language with my children. It is colorful. I also have a love/ hate relationship. It is complicated. I like to rhyme. They love it, too. We become quite creative around our house. It becomes fun. What a cool language. And, a crazy one!!!!

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      Colorful and complicated – so well-said! It is a cool and kooky language, and I just love that you and your kids get to share that enjoyment. 🙂

    • TerriblyTerrific

      Oh, absolutely! Thank you!!!!

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Dear TerriblyTerrific
      Do you know the resource, “Words to Rhyme With” by Willard R. Espy? If you are into rhyming this is a must have book. I used to try to write new words for old hymns and this was a great rhyming resource. It contains more than 80,000 words that rhyme. It is also just fun.

    • TerriblyTerrific

      Awesome! I will be looking into that book. Thank you so much!

  10. Grey Gregory

    Great Expecations is one of my favorite books because of numerous gems like this one: “Mr. Pumblechook’s premises in the High-street of the market town were of a peppercorny and farinaceous character, as the premises of a corn-chandler and seedsman should be.” I’m pretty sure Dickens wrote most of the book with his tongue firmly in cheek!

    Reply
    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Grey
      I would love to spend a day with folks who spoke this way. I am certain it would reset my imagination. It takes a genius to find and use those words. That’s one reason why Dickens is right up there with other respected and creative writers. And to make sense of this, a good dictionary is de rigeur.

  11. Paul N

    Great post Roseanne! OK, here’s my contribution:

    He looked at his gaunt, soap-lathered face in the mirror. Unfolding the cutthroat razor, he wondered if he would need to use it today for something other than its intended purpose.

    Reply
  12. yamuna

    Earlier, you were very professional, goal oriented, tough, serious and rather alien too. Sometimes, I tried to embrace you but you kept your distance and tried to keep away from me making me to keep my distance.

    Today, I am here with a different perception-may be it will will be reciprocal or not but today onwards I love you-English! No escape from me. I love you-I adore you!

    Reply
    • Disqussit

      I love the way you’ve personified language. That’s delightful.

  13. Anh Nguyen

    Ruthanne,

    I rarely think about the language but your post helped me look deeply into it. Thank you for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Anh

    Reply
  14. Disqussit

    I really enjoyed this post, thanks so much!

    My first memories of reading are both surreal and intense. I was just an infant. My mother was turning the pages of her 50 cent pulp fiction with me nestled in her lap. She read aloud while pointing to each word. I followed with my eyes.

    Later, there would be more children and no more time for such pleasures. But in that perfect space, we had forever, the creamy shagpile rising around us like a silent jungle, and that corner of the living room floor was the whole wide world, and the ritual of reading was like touching skin. I was reading alone by the age of two.

    So, I can’t recall when I first marvelled at the beauty of language. Not the exact moment. But I think the surprise of the pleasure I found in that early experience, and the magic of a well-turned phrase or story, made me want to understand why it seemed that way, and how I might turn out my own fine words.

    Some days this feels like alchemy. As if any moment now, the words might seperate into their base elements and reveal some underlying secret about human nature. And other times it is like a dumb groping in the back of a dark, cluttered cupboard, from which the best trophies are battered old tins of beans.

    I love all kinds of literature, and like you I love Gaiman’s work. I also love Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky and all the poets ever born. But if you are wondering what my dear mum’s choices were, and my very first exposure to literature, it was the best of the paperback bin: all the rubbish romances possible and Eric von Daniken, bless him. She was a newlywed migrant and it was the cheapest way for her to practice her English!

    Reply
  15. esloan

    Anne Carson writes more beautifully–line for line, word for word–than almost any other writer I have read–or can think of at this moment (ah, age!). (Although Virginia Woolf is also right up there, but without the poetic economy of Carson.) When I read your post, Ruthanne, I turned immediately to Carson’s Autobiography of Red and became lost in it once again. Here is a small collection my selected favorites from that book:

    (a translation of Stesichoros)
    XVI. HERAKLES’ ARROW
    Arrow means kill It parted Geryon’s skull like a comb Made
    The boy neck lean At an odd slow angle sideways as when a
    Poppy shames itself in a whip of Nude breeze

    (Note: it is purposefully not “the boy’s neck” but “the boy neck.” Just that tiny, unexpected change causes the reader to slow down and makes the image so much more delicate and fragile!)

    *****
    “Like the terrestrial crust of the earth
    which is proportionately ten times thinner than an eggshell, the skin of the soul
    is a miracle of mutual pressures.”
    *****
    “Huge wads of silence stuffed the air.”
    *****
    “Fear of time came at him. Time
    was squeezing Geryon like the pleats of an accordion.”
    *****
    “….A man moves through time. It means nothing except that,
    like a harpoon, once thrown he will arrive.”

    I am primarily a lover of language. I read addictively and passionately, then sit at the loom to draw my own blunt needle through the tapestry in hopes of creating just one line as powerful as Carson’s or Woolf’s.

    Reply
  16. Jonathan Hutchison

    As an introduction, the first thing that comes to mind after reading this week’s article by Ruthanne Reid is haiku, an economical use of words to set one free to dream or to imagine or to wander. In whatever way one responds to that particular form and collection of words, haiku is a release from the ordinary and a reminder that the mind is a terrible thing to let remain idle for long.

    OK, so here is my attempt to write a sentence or two that contain some arrangement of meaningful words.

    Watching the last leaf fall from a limb of the red maple tree outside my window, with tears filling my eyes, I wonder why fall has become my favorite season. With the approach of fall, this yearly cycle of life has now reached its completion. I think back on the new buds of spring, the lush green leaves that formed during the summer, and the red flash of color that showed up too early this past fall. Now there is just gray. Now there is just quiet. There is no life with which to partner. Cold has taken over. Anticipating the snow, I look out the window. It comes quietly one night while I am asleep. The snow covers the last remaining hint of my leaf, my inspiration, my hope during this cycle that has ended forever.

    So that’s it. Now about favorite books, etc. I favor the works of Kurt Vonnegut (especially Breakfast of Champions), Tom Robbins (especially Another Roadside Attraction), Richard Brautigan (especially Revenge of the Lawn), Peter Matthiessen (especially The Snow Leopard), and Ken Kesey (especially Sometimes a Great Notion). I am showing my age. I also like W. Somerset Maugham (especially The Razor’s Edge), C.S. Lewis (especially The Screwtape Letters), and of course J.R.R. Tolkien.

    Each of the authors above has helped me develop my imagination, my sense of humor, my sense of wonder, and my appreciation for unhinged thought and a strong work ethic.

    Reply
    • Kikku

      Beautiful.I loved your lines.

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Thanks for your feedback. Every day is new. Enjoy all that comes near you today.

    • Kikku

      Yes. That is very true.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      This is fantastic, Jon. You managed to create an atmosphere, showing (instead of telling) effectively enough that the reader can relate to what you’re saying, empathizing with these thoughts. This passage hints strongly at a story with enough detail to invoke emotion yet enough space that the reader can fill in the blanks with their own stories.

      Very beautifully done. I can see the influence of your favorite authors!

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Thanks for your feedback Ruthanne. I appreciate your helpful comments. Best of luck to you as you continue writing and helping others to write.

  17. LilianGardner

    I love the English language and the host of beautiful words with which to compose what to say, or what to write. I delight in simple yet beautiful sentences.
    The pieces of writing that fill my mind are mostly from poetry. I would like to quote from many sources but the following are the ones most prominent in my mind… at the moment.

    Ode to a Skylark by P.B.Shelly.

    Hail to the Blythe spirit,
    Bird thou never wert,
    That from heaven, or near it
    Pourest thine full heart
    In profuse strains of unpremediated art.

    John Keats, Ode to Autumn.

    Season of mists and mellow fruitfullness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…

    And a plaque my father made on a sheet of metal, and hung on the dining room wall until he died. A message from the Old Testament, which I love.

    Deut: The Eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.

    Reply
  18. Kikku

    Here is my practice. A few lines on a moment I experienced in a rainy afternoon.

    The air was still full of moisture long after the rain had stopped. The weak afternoon sun was struggling in vain to make everything hot and dry again. Instead, the soft rays, from behind the veil of clouds and moist air, rendered a yellowish and reddish tint to the vast greenery stretched in front of me.The nature was basking in the glory of the magical moment of rain after long summer days. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in the fresh, cool air. The picturesque beauty, which I witnessed through the windows of a running train, was imprinted in my mind forever.

    Reply
  19. Kikku

    English was altogether a foreign language to me, which we were forced to learn at school. Love for the language was a far fetched idea, it felt like a torture!

    I am from a village in India. In my childhood, there was not a single English medium school in the locality. No one around me spoke the language. As a multi-linguist country, it was necessary for us to learn English as our second language. Because, the medium of official works and higher education was English.

    But what we learnt in school was mainly application based, there was little scope for literature. Though one or two teachers tried to emphasis on the prose and poetry in the syllabus, somehow we didn’t feel much attracted. We did what was absolutely necessary.

    Then, in 8th standard I came across a poem. It was so simple, yet so beautiful and magical. It was love at first sight. I read and read and read; and each time it managed to make me fall in love with it more and more. At that moment my journey started. The journey to embrace a foreign language and fall in love with it.

    The poem is a very famous one and here it is:

    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    BY ROBERT FROST

    “Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.”

    Reply
  20. Terrazia Robinson

    I wrote a very short story about a woman that I met on my walk home from work. I shared it with my family and they were all very impressed. From that time on they titled me as a writer. I signed up for the newsletters so I can play with the idea. This is my practice response:

    These are people that write. Somehow there has been a gross error and injustice done to me when they made me believe that I was a writer. As puzzling as this statement sounds, I can write but I’m no writer. Within me lies confusion and a world of uncharted emotions that have never been interpreted and translated into understandable language. Nor an attempt made at conveying all that lies beneath. I hate to admire from afar. They are intelligent and it’s clearly obvious. This creates insecurity; the death of me.

    That is me describing how I felt after reading the comments that others posted here. Intimidation has struck. Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve everything? I don’t feel like I can be a writer because most times I don’t comprehend what I read! What do you think?

    Reply
    • Terrazia Robinson

      I think that what I wrote for my practice was pretty nice though. What do you think?

  21. Ed Cobleigh

    I submit the following for your consideration;

    The Pilot didn’t fear the new jet or think it could kill him for he had flown worse fighter planes, some much worse, and yet he still lived.

    Reply
    • Ruthanne Reid

      What an interesting sentence! You’re definitely enjoying the language. 🙂 I’m very curious now about this fellow and his terrible jets!

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