When I read, I underline words and phrases I like. Thanks to Liz Lamoreux’s Inner Excavation and her idea of creating a word toolbox to “reveal the poet within,” I’ve been reminded of the value of copying down those phrases. I used to do this when I first started writing.
Rewriting and retyping a seasoned writer’s excellent prose helps to get it into your brain and to see how language works. Lately I have felt that my active vocabulary has gotten stale, so it’s high time to pick up that habit again to freshen up and expand the words in my toolbox.
Following are the phrases I copied out of Adina Hoffman’s House of Windows. Among the books I have read most recently, House of Windows had the most exquisite prose; I kept drooling over her choice of words.
“shushing eucalyptus tree
a steady lemon light
the drone of the drill
the bride began to mince down the carpet
his elastic English
tinny Eastern pop
a pancake beret
her chorus of burbling pots and pans”
I’m still drooling; she has surely mastered the art of finding the mot juste. I’ve bolded the words I’m particularly in love with.
So far for my newest collection of words. Do you collect words and phrases?
Yes, I am guilty of stealing words and phrases. So far this week I collected "the effulgence of the full moon" and "languorous summer afternoons."
Thanks, Dennis. "Effulgence" – I had to look that up!
Sometimes I do this sort of thing for potential chapter titles.
It's a good practice, isn't it?
What an awesome idea. I can identify with the words feeling stale lately. Mainly the words are darn snow, cold and ice, but I think spring is coming this week so maybe with that my vocabulary will improve.
Sarah, yes, it is really high time for spring to come around!