The Way We Word

When do words come to you? By surprise, like the locust carapaces that litter the sidewalk at this time of the summer, or the first red leaf on the neighbor’s Japanese maple?  Do they come by effort, after a long time of waiting, when everything seems dry as sand–and suddenly, the first sentence of a story unfolds easily in your mind, like portable wings?  Do they come quickly, in dreams, or on the side of a passing truck that you only half glimpse through the trees?

At times, whole paragraphs pass before I even notice, like train cars intent on getting somewhere for which I have no ticket. Sometimes words are too squirmy to be pinned down. At other times, they seem trapped under thick ice, where I won’t be able to reach them until the sun grows strong enough to melt everything, and the words are there, like fish waiting to breathe.

I like to think of metaphors for the finding and keeping of words because the process usually feels so elusive.Words come and go. There doesn’t seem much rhyme or reason for it.  Having words to wrap the words in like little swaddling blankets makes them seem safe and secure…at least for the moment. But ultimately I know they will do what they do. It is my job to be ready for them.

How do you “word”? What tends to be your process?