Words, the sound of them, their meaning and even their letter shapes, hold endless fascination for me. I collect words. It’s a collection that is constantly evolving and I never have to worry about running out. To keep track of words, I write them down. Not on long lists, but on the backs of the tickets that say “admit one” that you use for video arcades or drinks at charity events. (You can buy them cheaply at Staples.)
This isn’t a vocabulary list, I simply write down words I like. China. Sideways. Torch. Bay. Vine. Indigo. The left side of my brain wants me to separate them into piles of verbs and nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Or put them in different envelopes marked “abstract nouns,” “colors,” “comfort words.” The right side of my brain won that argument–I can do a lot more piling them all together.
What do I do with the words? Sometimes I simply sift through them to see what interesting combinations I get, quite by extraordinary coincidence. Star grass. Silver lantern. Poem leaf. Lightning root. They make great journal prompts. “Lightning root: The cause of lighting, the first tiny frzzt that leaps larger and jags across the sky.” Or, another one: “The place in the earth burned
by the lightning strike. It’s tap-root deep, and next year it will grow a transparent dandelion.” I never tire of these imagination games, and reading back over them has sparked many an idea.
Sometimes I draw three tickets and they represent the past, present and future. Today I pulled ‘Hope’, ‘Spin’, and ‘Comfort’ for the past, present and future, and spent a happy 20 minutes deciphering what it means, recording it all in my journal.
For years, I kept words in a bag, but a few days ago I found a box shaped like a book. It seemed the perfect place for the words.
I’ve been a word collector for a long time. When I was about eight, I noticed that ‘live’ spelled backwards was ‘evil.’ I thought that was very important, mysterious, and special. That was enough to get me started.
When I got to the moody part of teenage life, I turned to anagrams and came up with the idea that ‘live’ could be changed to ‘vile,’ which is how I thought of my life.
Later on, of course, ‘lives’ became ‘elvis’ and after that, Elvis lives.
In high school I discovered anagrams. While math was not my strong suit, I discovered that ‘Eleven plus two’ is an anagram of ‘Twelve plus one.’
In college, I anagrammed ‘dormitory’ to ‘dirty room.’ My favorite that year was “the eyes= they see.” ‘ Silent’ morphed to ‘Listen’. Still one of my favorites.
I use the tickets to think about words in different ways. “Bay” can be a part of the sea, a place where the truck unloads, a window, a color, and a sound. That’s one rich word.
If you choose the words randomly, they create a kind of poetry. You can always add the words that are missing. Before you know it, you’ll be playing with words and discovering their secret meanings that you’ve always known, but never noticed. Your journal will never be at a loss for writing again.
–(c) 2007. All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a word collector and a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com