At Cornell University, my professor of European literature, Vladimir Nabokov, changed the way I read and the way I write. Words could paint pictures, I learned from him. Choosing the right word, and the right word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing is a tremendous loss, but what a wonderful legacy she has left the world. She was a champion of rights, dedicated to the institution of justice and the definition of tenacity. RBG had many other attributes as well, exalted in the manifold stories across the media. She will be remembered for many things, and I doubt the quote shown above will be one of them. But it resonates with me because it touches on my favorite subject – words.
I am always on the prowl for new words. I reach for them to elevate my prosaic writing much to the disdain of “plain English” enthusiasts. I continuously strive to harness words new to my vocabulary, buzz words, trending phrases and quotes that strike a chord in an emotional or inspirational way.
Using varied tools, I build my own lexicon of sorts, experimenting with OneNote, Evernote, Notes for iPad and hard-copy notebooks to draw from when I have a thought or feeling with no idea how to express it. Posts, articles and books that expand my knowledge of the English language are priceless. I savor the opportunity to broaden my vernacular so that when I create marketing copy, a résumé, a blog post and even a social email, it will blossom with color and life.
So I wonder, as a writer, how do you capture words for your writing? Do you have a divine memory that enables you to store them in a corner of your brain to retrieve as needed, or do you maintain a repository of some kind? What are your favorite tools of the trade that help you paint a picture with words?