Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finding the Right Words

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?

"Love, Mom."


Anonymous said...

Judy, in a way that was so completely unexpected this made me cry. It was that last line, for sure. The reminder that when all is said and done, the dreams, the novels, the big plans, the best of who we are in this life is parents—nurturers of the next generation—moms.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Yup, that's it exactly. And I find it so grounding, even comforting. When it isn't terrifying. That one line defines me more than any other.

Lisa said...

That is beautiful. Just beautiful.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks, Lisa.

Katie Alender said...

So sweet, Judy. And I love the rest of the post, too--when you go looking for gems, sometimes they don't shine as brightly unless they're seen as part of the whole story. Sometimes a line is the perfect line because it caps off a situation in the perfect way, but isn't special on its own.

But your solution is a lovely one!

debra said...

Oh, Judy, that is wonderful. Thank you.

Sustenance Scout said...

Ditto, Judy. So glad I stopped by to visit. Hugs, K.

Carleen Brice said...


Daisy said...

Tearing up: I email my kids so often, I don't always end that way. I need to.