You Have To Know What’s Available (To Use It)

I find it helpful to have lots of words passing before my eyes as much as possible when I am trying to write, because the one word I feel I need the most might just be somewhere in the stream, though I might have to chop part of it away or twist it a little or elongate it…

-Gary Lutz


This quote seems to not only speak to reading, but also to noticing (words). The metaphor, to keep a “stream of words before our eyes”, is a wise one, a practice that can yield constant discovery. In our common daily (casual and conversational) language we speak with such a small percentage of words, it is rare to encounter new gems we might want to use in our writing. And I should note, it’s o.k. to not speak like we write.

However, what I appreciate about this quote is that it reinforces that reading opens our minds up to many new words by shape and sound, meaning and context. To see how a word is used in another’s writing offers possibilities on how we might use that same or a similar word in our own writing. We need these words in our pockets, in a list in our journals, at the tips of our tongues, and of course in the margins of our pages. We especially need this “stream of words” in revision to challenge and replace the words we get comfortable with using all the time. When I find myself using some of my same favorite words (and we will always have our favorites), I push myself to read more, read from different sources and genres, find new words to look at, listen to, enjoy and keep.


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Categories: Inspiration, Writing

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