Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pulling Up Words

On a wet spring morning I stood at my kitchen window watching the robins in my yard, spread out like a troop of minesweepers canvassing the wet grass, pulling earthworms from the rain-rich soil. Each bird would study the ground, head cocked, until suddenly--strike! Then the tugging match ensued, ending more often than not with a long wriggling worm springing from the earth, to be gobbled down in a fraction of the time it took to reap it.

After a moment, the smallest of the robins drew my eye. This little bird had hit the jackpot, having caught hold of a monster of a worm, and was pulling for all it was worth, rearing back and straining its tiny body, releasing the taut-stretched worm for a lightning-quick instant to gain a better hold on its vast length--vast in robin-reckoning, anyway. But the worm wasn't giving ground without a fight. I stood there rooting for the bird going the rounds with its breakfast, and was inordinately cheered when it finally won the battle. In a second the robin swallowed its prize and immediately began its darting, cock-eyed search for the next worm.

Writing (you knew this would come back to writing, didn't you?) can be every bit as toilsome. Sometimes the word I crave, that precise word that will evoke the sensory image or mood that a character or scene requires to come springing off the page with a life of its own--and do so without calling too much attention to itself--is captured with nothing less than the same relentless tenacity displayed by the little robin. Sometimes it's a battle I wage to yank that word from the hard-packed soil that is my brain.

Some days the worm wins. Some days I wish I were a bigger robin.

But success--capturing that perfect word, that wriggling juicy right word--belongs not always to the biggest, the fastest, the one with an eagle's soaring talent, but to the writer who doggedly goes on tugging at word after word... after word.

~photo by sparkle1103/Flickr


  1. Pulling up words, indeed:) It really is all about endurance which you seem to have in spades. Great analogy!

  2. My comment disappeared :( Here goes another try. . . I love the illustration, Lori. I constantly rely on the thesaurus, wish I had a better repertoire of great words in my own vocabulary. One great word can make all the difference in the world, a string of them even better.

  3. I know what you mean. I've often sat staring at my screen knowing the word is somewhere in my head, waiting for it to appear. I'm thankful for, it's been great for bringing my word back to mind.


  4. Indeed, God bless the soul who first thought of a thesaurus!