As a writer, I spend my days with words . . . trying to find the right ones, the best combinations, the perfect order. Do I say it this way or that way? It can seem like a never-ending puzzle. It can make me crazy.
But when they all fall into place, when the words arrange themselves, magically it might seem, even lyrically, I remember why I love what I do.
I need to remember the words of wisdom from E. B. White, one of my writing idols, who was advised as a young newspaper reporter struggling to tell a story, to "Just say the words."
This has been on my mind lately for a few reasons. One, I'm in full-on "writing mode," completely rewriting a manuscript. New POV, one narrative voice taken out (but reappearing in a different form), major changes throughout. It's exhilarating and terrifying. And words matter. Every single one. But I'm trying not to overthink it. I'm reminding myself to Just Say the Words.
The second reason this has been on my mind is because, as part of my participation in a Writers Week Celebration at a nearby high school in April, I was asked, "What's the best line you ever wrote?" (This was for the author information page.) I flipped through my book. Even looked at various blog posts. There are lines I like, lines I think capture a moment or a feeling. But when I looked at them in isolation, I thought, hmm, not so much. I'm not sure this one line is the best. One line kept popping up in my thoughts, but I thought it was probably too simple. Or not professional enough. So, in my e-mail to the director of the program, I was very apologetic about it, sort of made a little joke, and promised him I was working hard to come up with a better line. I didn't want him to think it had been a mistake to invite me to participate. But you know what? He wrote me back and said he thought the line I'd given him was perfect. So, I told him thanks, and to go ahead with it.
I'd Just Said the Words and hadn't even realized it.
The best line I've ever written?