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Monday, October 17, 2016

Caressing Those Vibrant Verbs

During my years in Graduate School - when non-fiction comprised my whole reading diet - I decided to start implementing at least one idea from every book I finished. Many of the disciplines resulting from that resolve remain with me to this day. How do you ensure something you learn from a non-fiction book sticks with you?

"Writing From The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" (1986) by Natalie Goldberg is packed with worthwhile ideas. The format of very short sections - the largest is about four pages long - invites the reader and aspiring writer to browse, find something to try, then return later. Weeks after finishing Goldberg's book, I still haven't settled on which idea I'm going to permanently incorporate into my writing practice. At present, the top contender comes from her section entitled "The Action Of A Sentence" where she suggests an ingenious activity to help writers unearth more vibrant verbs.

The creative people from whom I seem to learn best often demystify their process. In his memoirs, Stephen Sondheim describes composing as analogous to making a hat. In one section of her useful book, Goldberg extols the importance of details in writing. Her pertinent and demystifying metaphor about how those details help the finished product shine is to compare the details to the quality ingredients you use when "Baking A Cake". And then Goldberg puts on the icing by quoting Nabokov - "Caress the divine details". Caress? Now there's a vibrant verb.

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