Stealing Words

My name is Lea Wait, and I am a thief.

I steal words.

I’m stealthy. I don’t steal more than one, or possibly two, at a time, so tracing their origins would be impossible, even for me.  I steal them from friends and relatives and CNN commentators. I reach out and boldly snatch them from overheard conversations at grocery stores or farmers’ markets or coffee shops. But, worse of all, most of the words I’ve stolen have come from those in my own profession. I steal them from other writers.

I steal them for the same reason a jeweler might steal a jewel: they are so beautiful I can’t resist taking them and making them my own.

I carry a notebook, as most writers do, and it is in that notebook that I capture those precious, fleeting, words. Often they are sensory words. Images. Words I recognize, I admire, but that I don’t always use myself. Or that I suddenly see, or hear, in a different way. That remind me of smells or sights or tastes that fit in scenes in the book I’m writing. They are treasures. I hoard them.

I copy them onto lists and I read them over, cherishing the way they feel, before writing or rewriting a certain scene, or before  starting my work for the day. They evoke feelings. Memories. They are almost a meditation. Sometimes they form themselves into short phrases.

What are some of the words and phrases on my list now, as I start a new book?

Sea lavender, wishing stones, frayed, wafted, cobalt blue, gray skeletal pilings, the scent of lavender in an old pine bureau, the front of a house painted white while the back is wind-grayed, socked in, glowing, fingers grazing, skittered, slog, fragile, mud and mould and rotting fish, screams of fishers in the dark, creak of hardwood boards, shabby, clamoring.

And many more. Some of them will no doubt end up finding homes in my book. Or the one after that. Some will not. But reading them over will remind me why I love writing. Words are my tools.

Go ahead. I dare you. Steal some of mine. Words are magic. Used by different authors, they tell different stories. And yet, standing alone, or in limited company, they contain their own messages. They sing their own songs.


4 Responses

  1. Me, too, Lea. I fondle words the way I fondle wool at the yarn store. And isn’t “fondle” an evocative word? I’m stealing some words from zoologists to use in my next book: redd, lek, stickleback.

  2. Lovely piece, Lea! Beautifully written — and right on!
    Tom Sawyer

  3. Oooh! I love those words, Nikki! Watch out … I might .. borrow … one … ! and, thank you, Tom.

  4. You think like a poet.

    I like words, too, but I can’t imagine using canoodling in a mystery these days.


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