A Love of Words

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

As the world celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday in one form or another, I reflected on a different kind of love affair I’ve had throughout most of my life—a love of words.

I tried to think back to when that love affair first started. It must have been before kindergarten, when, according to my parents, I stumped an encyclopedia salesman by reading the word “amphibian” out loud from a text he was trying to sell us. I discovered early on the power of words in books, when authors like Judy Blume helped me make sense of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personalities of upper-elementary and middle-school classmates. If I had to stay home sick from school, I was fine as long as I had buttered toast, ginger ale, and a book.

Somewhere in middle school I began toying around with rhyming poems (they weren’t great, mind you!) and short stories. By the time I reached high school, my friends were shaking their heads over my excitement every time we had to write a response essay to the books we read, whether it was Mark Twain or Pearl S. Buck. I loved nothing more than digging deep into the text, and exploring the underlying meaning beneath the beauty of the words. On the days I felt like an imposter walking through the halls of my high school, my gift with words helped me fit in with my peers. I felt most comfortable banging away on the keys of a typewriter. The Student Government Association contracted me to write a poem for the junior/senior prom program one year, and my words found their way into the pages of our yearbook when I signed on as co-editor.

I always knew I wanted some type of career with words, and in college I found my way into newswriting. I dove into a “just the facts” mentality with my work on the campus newspaper, and continued writing poetry as a form of therapy on the days when my stress levels reached the breaking point. Through the years I’ve been humbled and grateful each time someone offers to pay me for my words—it truly is a dream occupation, even on the months when I don’t make as much money as I’d like.

But I’ve noticed there’s a fine balance to being busy. Just as I’ve discovered I have to exercise several days a week for my mental health, I also have to write creatively. Right now my home life is pretty crazy with an ill family member and packing the house for an upcoming move, and I’m sad that I haven’t been able to work on a fiction project I wanted to get to. I’ll have to remedy that soon, because as in most relationships, relationships (even ones with words) require a give and take on both sides.

I’d love to hear about your own relationship with words, and how you first discovered it. How do you take time to nurture the relationship with reading and writing each and every day?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in regional and trade magazines, on parenting and health and wellness websites, and more. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I fell in love with words in 7th grade. My English teacher taught us poetry using folk songs. Cat Stevens. Joni Mitchell. Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. Bob Dylan.

Also in 7th grade, I fell in love with Dickens (Tale of Two Cities) and other novelists.

That same year, I was the editor of the school newspaper, and discovered I could make kids laugh with stories about my messy room.

Thanks for making me travel back to 40 years ago... to a time when the love affair with words began.

Melissa Amateis said...

I fell in love with words as a small child. Going to the library was THE highlight of our week (we lived on a farm, so trips to town weren't daily). I eagerly participated in the summer reading program and later on, as a high schooler, I worked at that same library part-time.

I started writing at an early age, too, though began to do it seriously in 6th grade. (Well, as serious as you can be in the 6th grade!). All these years later, I'm still in love with words - sometimes. I am going through an incredible resistance right now to writing and it grieves me deeply. Perhaps it's just the current novel I'm tackling (which has proven to be immensely challenging), but it's harder to write on it than it is to harvest potatoes out of the frozen ground. I have hope, though, that this, too, shall pass, and my love affair with words will continue.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Ohmygosh... Melissa's comment reminded me of the bookmobile. Climbing up the steep, rickety steps (there were only 2 or 3)... the heavy door... the whoosh of the air conditioning or the blast of heat... It was a magical place.

Unknown said...

I hated reading as a child! But writing in my journal was my favorite part of the day. I always wrote; journaling, poems, short stories. My imagination was wild. Even through high school I didn't read unless I had to but always wrote. My English teachers always pushed me to go into journalism. Nursing has been my career for 12 years. I love the opportunity to care for people in need and crave the knowledge that comes with it. Giving back to society gives me peace, however I'm in a point in my life I have an unrelentless desire to give back through my words. Nursing has become stale to me, stagnant or burnt out, whichever way you want to understand it. I finally started reading when the 2nd book of Twilight (new moon) came out. My grandfather had a massive stroke and was in ICU for 11 days. Being the only nurse in the family I didn't leave his side. My friend brought both the 1st and 2nd books of the saga to ease the time. BAM! Out of nowhere I read both in 2 days... So I reread them 3 more times in the hospital. At 21 years old, I fell even more in love with words. I haven't put a book down since unless it's to write. I desperately want to write a book but this is literally My very first publication... I have no idea where to start? Please point me in a direction so I can fly! How do people do this as a living? I am a single mother of 3 amazing kids that I support solely on my own. So can I do this for real? Can I inspire as others have me? Someone help!!!

KAlan said...

Renee, I always love reading your posts. Your experiences illuminate our ordinary lifestyles with the possibilities we can mine from within them.

I have a great deal of admiration for writers, like you, who can change between analytical and creative "tracks" so wilfully. For me, if I am not writing creatively nearly full-time, it simply does not happen at all.

I suspect that all of us here share your "love of words," but it is more difficult to develop the same love for all the different styles of writing out there in the industry. I also suspect that developing this is part of the key for fledglings like Hayley and I: to find joy in writing whatever needs to be written, whether creative, journalistic or sensational.

Mary Horner said...

For me, the sixth grade essay contest I won about the library! Also, we played word games at the dinner table, and my dad actually read poetry (James Whitcomb Riley, and I still have that book) to my brothers and me sitting on the living room floor. Words have almost always played an important role in my life.

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