Unlock the Muse – March 21, 2018

Spring has officially arrived according to the calendar. At least in the northern hemisphere. I’ve always wondered what it feels like to live upside-down and backwards. Any south of the equator friends care to weigh in on that? In some respects, I imagine it might be something akin to being a lefty in a right-handed world, though I can’t speak from experience on that either.

Your writing exercise for this week is:

Pick a word out of the dictionary, and try to use it in conversation today three times. Expanding your vocabulary will help you find the right word when you need it.

Maybe there’s a word you encountered recently in your reading that you found interesting or beautiful in some way. Use that as your word choice. Have you been thinking of subscribing to that word-of-the-day app? Now’s a good time. Learn a new word, but don’t just learn it theoretically. Put it into use!

I finished reading Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg this week. It’s a very short book. But it’s packed with writing wisdom. If you’re a writer, and you haven’t read it, I’d encourage you to do so. At least once. If it’s not for you, fine. But I’d venture to say most any writer could find something valuable in this book.

For example, in Goldberg’s essay titled, “Listening,” she speaks on the importance of being mindful always of what’s going on around you. She says:

Listening is receptivity. The deeper you can listen, the better you can write.

I think this can be applied to all aspects of observation. A writer needs to be a watcher and a listener. Not just an observer of actions and words, but of feelings, intentions and the subtleties of human nature. Goldberg concludes the essay as follows:

Basically, if you want to become a good writer, you need to do three things. Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and write a lot. And don’t think too much. Just enter the heat of words and sounds and colored sensations and keep your pen moving across the page.

I encountered an interesting word this week, one I had to stop and look up: elegiacally.

They were good men,” Lorimer repeats elegiacally. He knows he is speaking for it all, for Dave’s Father, for Bud’s manhood, for himself, for Cro-Magnon, for the dinosaurs too, maybe.
– “Houston, Houston, Do You Read” by James Tiptree Jr.

This word is the adverb form of elegiac which means:




  1. relating to or characteristic of an elegy.


  1. verses in an elegiac meter.

In English literature, an elegy is a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead. The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter (death, love, war). The term also included epitaphs, sad and mournful songs, and commemorative verses. (from wikipedia)

Use of the word elegiac dates back to the 1580s where it comes from the Middle French, élégiaque, from the Latin, elegiacus, and from the Greek, elegeiakos. It refers to lines of verse of a particular construction. In ancient Greece, the verse form was used especially with mournful music. Later, c. 1800s, the meaning of the word loosened to mean “expressing sorrow, lamenting.” (from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

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