Wordsmith, Wordsmithing, Wordsmithery

noun: wordsmith; plural noun: wordsmiths

1. a skilled user of words.

Definition from Oxford Languages

The term wordsmith didn’t enter my vocabulary until my mid-30s, but let’s rewind. I didn’t know about a lot of things until that time in my life, but I’ll save that story for another day. But first, here’s some back story to my circuitous route of what it means to me to be wordsmith.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a popular question adults ask us from the time we can talk. The older we get we begin to discover what we want to become and it usually has nothing to do with what our parents want for us, even though they tell us to do what makes us happy. Come to think of it, I don’t recall my parents saying those words. EVER.

From first grade until the beginning of my junior year in high school, I had big plans. I wanted to make my parents proud, so they could brag to their friends and extended family about the career path I chose. Because one day, in my not so distant future, I was going to be a medical doctor…and jazz hands.

I sat with my parents watching every episode with Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, MD. And before Patrick Dempsey’s role as Dr. Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy, there was George Clooney as Dr. Ross in ER. Who didn’t want to work in the ER, fall in love with another doctor, and live happily after?

But at the beginning of my junior year in high school, I saw a PBS documentary on the making of a doctor and it shook me to my core. This film crew followed a small group of students through medical school, residency, and practice. I watched them juggle family and work. There were successes and failures at home and on the job. My preconceived notions were created through TV shows, I didn’t imagine it to be any different until that point.

You could say I romanticized the idea of being a doctor until that moment. I didn’t know what becoming an MD entailed. You know, the years of sacrifice, the schooling in the things I had no interest for and of course there was the blood. I was 16 and it was the first time since the first grade that I didn’t want to be a doctor. Cue the Price is Right sound of disappointment.

That same year, I discovered my interest in the arts. Who knew there was a world outside of becoming a medical doctor? It would take me a couple more decades to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I wanted to become was a wordsmith.

Wordsmith Origin

The term wordsmith is believed to have been first used sometime in the 1800’s. Online Etymology Dictionary states that it comes from an 1855-56 Detroit directory 1855-56 with a listing for a “Mrs. F. Wordsmith.” Though it could be a typographical error. Other dictionaries trace it back by separating them into two words. I’ll only expound on the latter. Smith is generally associated with a person that works with metal, but a second definition says it is a person who has a specified skill.

I thought it would have a deeper meaning, but it is just as the name implies. In the same way a blacksmith forms metal, a wordsmith does the same when in the act of creative writing. We shape sentences in such a way to convey an image, a thought or an idea. If you’re a writer of words, add this to your list of I ams. Go ahead and say this out loud, “I am a wordsmith.”

The Sound-Better-Words

Now that you’ve said it, it’s time to be one. How many times have you looked for a better word .for something you wanted to say. I’ve only included two words in this post, but for good reason. Let’s take a look at the words very bad. In elementary we used the word very often, but somewhere along the line we were told to use other words to describe something that was very bad. So, we thumb through the dictionary and create lists of synonyms. Off the top of your head, what words come to mind when you’re thinking of a better word for bad? Create your own word list. This is a great exercise to see what you’ve got in your mental word bank.

Proofreading Services has a list of 128 words to use instead of “very” for your perusing pleasure.

Another common word used in our creative writings come when our characters are conversing. How did your character say it? Did he gasp, taunt, or whisper? I’ve included an infographic below compiled by The Puppet Show, so when you hit a said wall in your dialoging look to this.

280 Ways to say “said”

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Life took me on a detour, but I’m glad I found the thing that makes me get out of bed in the morning. I hope this post gets your mind thinking about other sound-better-words. There’s a big world out there with thousands of words to use within the English language.

Look up a word and find the synonym. I dare you to go down that rabbit hole. Sign up with an on-line dictionary for your word of the day. Use it in a sentence or let it catapult you in the form of a writing prompt. You’ll emerge with words that you never knew existed and dominate your friends and family in Scrabble or whatever word game tickles your fancy. Now doesn’t that sound like a dollop of whip cream on top?

Happy wordsmithing my friends! Write on.

Narrative: The 4 POVs

Narrative is the way you tell your story. What point of view do you offer your reading audience? How much are you willing to reveal and how much of their understanding do want to remain a mystery? Whichever one you choose, writing narratives from a different point of view enhances your creative writing skills.

First person narrative gives me a chance to imagine how and what the character is feeling. I see life through their eyes like I’m walking around in someone else’s shoes. One writer I met said she took up smoking because her character was a smoker. I found the behavior to be a little extreme. Keep in mind you don’t have to pick up a vice because your character has one.

In my own writing journey, I’m taking my own advice and trying different POVs by paragraph within my projects. I’ll take one paragraph and rewrite it using a different POV each time. It mixes things up and gives me the opportunity to see my character or characters in a different light.

Are you not sure how you should narrate your next story? Here’s a brief overview concerning point of view.

First Person

Use the pronouns I, me, or we, us our, ours, mine. Example, “I enjoy curling up on the couch to watch a mystery.” The narrator lets you know what I’m doing.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

Second Person

Use the pronouns you, your, yours, yourself. Example, “You stand there for a moment, not sure whether or not you should turn away.” The narrator lets you know what you are doing. The narrator turns the reader into the protagonist.

The overall consensus among the writing community is not favorable when it comes to using second person POV. There aren’t as many examples using this POV in literature, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. I experimented with second person in a personal essay called The Photograph, when I found out my biological dad wasn’t my step dad. I ended up changing it to first person.

“You have friends who actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.” – Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City

Third Person Limited

use the pronouns he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves. Example, “She stares at the dog growling at her from the corner of her eye and decides to bolt.” The narrator lets you know what she is doing. Third person limited narrative knows the thoughts and actions of one character throughout the story. Most stories are told through this perspective.

“He will never be able to explain how he dares to do this, but perhaps you get tired of being frightened if you’ve been frightened long enough.” ― Fredrik Backman, Beartown

Third Person Omniscient

Use the pronouns he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves. Third person omniscient knows and sees the inner workings of all characters.

“Vanity was stronger than love at sixteen and there was no room in her hot heart now for anything but hate.” -Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Exercise

Write a paragraph with your character having dinner with their family. Try writing the same paragraph through the lens of the different POVs mentioned in this post. Which narrative worked best for you and why?

Musings From a Creative Writer

Creative writing is the imaginative musings of a writer. The writer incorporates the senses to show the reader a story. It’s a flowery embellishment of sorts, describing a park you’ve created from your imagination. It’s the sensation a character feels from the sun on their skin in the middle of the day.

In school, your professors teach you to show and not tell. It’s the showing of the beach at sunset rather than telling the audience that the sun set. Now all your sentences become too long because all you do is show. Then you read an article that says it’s better to tell. If they ran, say they ran. Keep the story progressing. Progressing to what? You don’t know, but you keep writing.

The words you wrote and rewrote begin to sound like crap. You’re ready to burn your manuscript, except for that one sentence or that paragraph. There’s still hope. You put the lighter away and retrieve your work from the garbage. It’s a cycle of building yourself up and tearing yourself down.

As the writer, creative writing can leave you staring at a blinking parallel line. Your cursor sits waiting like your beating heart for the next word. How’s the writing coming people ask. “It’s coming,” you tell them. Every line you write you obsess over. You weren’t a perfectionist until now.

Who are you writing for? You realize more often than not that you do it for yourself. Words made their way into your heart and now those must find a place in the world.

Creative writing can take you on an adventure all while sitting in the comfort of your bed. You feel emotions about a topic you never had an opinion on until you read about it from a book you stumble across at the bookstore.

You want to hit a nerve in your reader that makes them stay up all night reading your book. When they are through you want them to mourn the character they can no longer read about.

This is what you want for your reading audience, so you keep writing.

“Oh Buhay”: Life is So Hard

Oh buhay, Tagalog for “Life is so hard.”

In contrast, my sweet friend, Maribel, made me a frame that says, ” Life… it’s so easy.” It’s a little inside joke my friends and I have with her.

We can either go through life thinking one of the two.

How do you see it? I’m blinking at you like Dora the Explorer.

I need to brag about Maribel for a hot minute. She knows how to do things…from cooking to styling hair, to instructing Zumba, to being a phlebotomist. This lady can do HARD things. She is a devoted wife, mother, friend and foremost a Christian. She doesn’t need to advertise her beliefs because she embodies it in her daily actions. She’s the real deal. I love you, Maribel! I haven’t even covered half of what makes Maribel the awesome person she is.

*Disclaimer: If you are my friend, you may be subject to appearing in a post. I am a bragger, so if you are a friend of mine it is because you are a strong individual and I am inspired by the person you are. You continue to motivate me to be the best version of myself.

Life in the Ultrarunning Community

I have once again immersed myself into the ultrarunning community. I am currently living the cheer mat life sidelines. I am the person who will be one of your biggest supporters as you run and train for those ultra running races. My husband and I might just be at the aid station, making that crowd favorite of peanut butter and jelly wrapped in a tortilla.

I’ve missed it. If you’re one of my running friends reading this, I’ve missed you.

I know I’ve been a crappy friend, but can you blame me? Depression kicked my @$$ BIG TIME. I retreat inwards. It’s not good. I do not recommend it. I’m learning to reach out to others. Like I’ve said before, people can’t read your mind, because if they could your people would be right there to lift you up.

When you are in that big pit of despair, who do you turn to when you no longer have your friends to turn to. I found out who I really needed to turn to.

There’s only so much you can do when you turn away from God.

I can tell you one thing, your problems will not end. You may get tried, but He can make your burdens lighter. When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, only He can make it lighter and send people to you to help alleviate those burdens. If you are still on the fence about the God thing, think of it as the Universe. I’ve said this before. We are interconnected. You know why? Because we need each other. There is no “lone wolfing” this life.

I mean, you can if you want, but you are essentially making life a lot harder for yourself than it needs to be.

Back to talking about running…

I’ve missed the people who became my life’s greatest cheerleaders.

When you stop running, are you still a runner?

When I wasn’t running…no, I didn’t think of myself as a runner. I walked the trail for 3 years and could not imagine myself ever running ANY foot race again. I asked and wondered, mostly in my head, why ANYONE would subject themselves to a 100 mile race, especially a race in the Florida Keys during the month of May?

I forgot the joy that running brought me. The onset was sudden. It started when my husband, Anthony, our daughter, Lexi, and our other daughter, Brooklyn came down to Ancient Oaks 100 in Titusville, Florida to volunteer at the start/finish aid station this past December. This past year it has become an infamous race for other reasons, but I’ll let you do the research on your own.

I planted the seed when I said I lost my passion for running.

I used reverse psychology on me and now I have some races lined up leading up to the Keys 100.

Do you see how our lives are created by our own making?

I had a reawakening in my soul. Please refer to my last few blog posts to understand what I’m talking about.

In two weeks, my daughter, Alexis, aka Lexi will be jumping out of a perfectly good plane and upon landing, she will then run 13.1 miles. Why? Free will. Also, one of the greatest gifts God has given each one of us on this planet.

The race is called Sky Dive Ultra, created by Eric Friedman. He’s also the guy who created FUR Florida Ultra Runners group on FB.

I’ve wanted to attend Sky Dive Ultra (not jumping out of the plane) get together/reunion of sorts since 2014. The date has not worked out in my life’s schedule.

I’m not saying live a YOLO life. I’m saying we need to live among the living. The world is so much better with YOU in it. Be with the people who make it worth living.

You will be happier for it. I’m living proof that it’s better to live life among the living. I changed how I saw things and once I did that, everything else just clicked. I mean EVERYTHING. Thoughts, ideas, and actions. Most importantly, people have been placed in my path to facilitate the actions. More on that in another post.

Well, now that we have a family member running the race, the race will be more meaningful to say the least. Not only that, but now I created an opportunity to catch up with my running friends and introduce them to my husband, who has unwittingly caught the running bug, before I knew I wanted and needed running back in my life. I am grateful he planted the seed in his own way, unbeknownst to him.

The Keys 100

In the same vein of ultrarunning thought, I’m in the beginning stages of training for The Keys 100. This race is a special one for me.

Here’s the short short story…

2014

I attempted this race as a solo runner…meaning no running crew. I depended on the aid stations. The problem? They can’t anticipate your needs, because they don’t know you. I did experience what it means to help a sister out. Christian Stewart and Susan Anger who are well known to those of us who are Florida Ultra Runners. They helped me after the 7-Mile Bridge. I made it as far as 96 miles, but knowing that I wouldn’t buckle, I threw in the towel.

2015

I towed the line once again…and finished.

Why?

I had a crew. Three other ultra runners (Lani, Bernadette, and Kevin volunteered their time and energy just to get me thru to the finish. They were there to anticipate what I needed, before I even knew I needed it.

I’ll never forget the moment when my friend, Lani, said sometime during the last six miles. I was severely chaffed in my nether regions. It hurt with every step I took.

Lani said, “If you want me to put Butt Paste there, I’ll do it.”

Her look of compassion for a situation I put upon myself in made my heart fill with more gratitude than I can express here in words.

I could not have done it without them. This year I’ll have a different crew. Two of them will be my family members. I’m sure you can guess who that will be.

2022

I have been looking for my buckle from 2015…it’s vanished from my possession. I can’t remember the last time I physically touched it.

Lexi said, “Well, I guess you’ll have to run another one.”

So, I guess it’s time for me to get a new one. I look forward to the coming months and years with my new found love to live life. I’m continually learning to love every aspect of it..meaning the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I ask that we all adopt Maribel’s saying, “Life…it’s so easy,” and add “when you allow others into it.”

Let us help each other in this crazy journey we call life!

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Thank you for visiting and I hope to “see” you again soon.

A Partial Tale of Two Valleys: Part 1

The title of this post reflects the small town I moved from and the small town I moved to. They both were located in the valley.

With the exception of starting my life in Huntington Beach, CA, and one year in Carson City, NV, by three years of age, my parents decided they didn’t want their daughter growing up in the city.

“We moved out of the city because we were worried that you might join a gang,” my father used to say.

I used to roll my eyes at the thought. I still do.

Through their parental lens, they were sheltering me from the dangers of city living and as a result, I have lived in nothing but rural towns since then.

What is it like moving to a town far from the people you know?

I was 11 years old when I moved from West Valley, New York to Delta, Utah.

Delta was one of the larger towns in Millard County making it the hub for the public school system. Delda, as the locals call it, had everything from grocery stores, banks, restaurants, and one clothing department store.

I lived in one of those smaller towns. Hinckley is located 5 miles east of Delta. There were no traffic lights. During the holidays, the town’s Christmas tree was set up in the middle of the only four-way stop sign on Main. We had a gas station, an LDS Church, post office, a park, and the remains of the Hinckley Academy.

Here’s an excerpt from my memoir Belonging:

My father knows that moving to the West Coast will bring my mother back. She prefers the drier weather. He speaks to an old family friend we knew from Hawthorne. Dena and Greg have moved to a small town in Utah. My father tells me that if he doesn’t like it after a few months, we will move, but for the time being, Delta is our destination. At the end of the school year, my father packs up what little we have left into his 1975 Ford truck. We head West.

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The move from West Valley, New York is not the most challenging part––the people in Utah are different.  It’s hot outside, but people in town aren’t wearing tank tops or short shorts. Women and girls are wearing short-sleeved shirts and shorts that go below the knee. 

Bart, Greg’s son, says I can’t say, “Oh my God” anymore. 

“Why?” I ask.

His little sister pipes in and says, “Because you can’t take the Lord’s name in vain.”

“What does that mean?”

“Because it’s like cussing. You can say, ‘Gosh’ or ‘Goodness’ instead,” says Bart.

I don’t want to be a cusser and adopt these new words into my speech.

Dena asks if I want to come to church with them on Sunday. It’s not what I want to do, but it’s better than sitting in their house by myself. I no longer own any dresses. My mother had stopped making my dresses after the fourth grade because I wanted to wear jeans like the rest of the girls in my class. She says that since I don’t own any appropriate church clothes, Dena takes me to a thrift shop and buys me a denim skirt and a short-sleeved salmon button-up top with a collar. The fabric is heavily starched, and the sleeves dwarf my skinny arms. Dena says that it will work. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to complain. That would be rude. 

We arrive at the church with fifteen minutes to spare, but it appears that people have come earlier. We walk through the foyer and are immediately greeted by church members who provide us with a program. We pass through a set of double doors and enter the back of the chapel and follow other members beyond accordion-style partitions that reveal the overflow where there are rows of metal folding chairs. The dusty rose cushioned pews in the chapel are all taken. Flowery perfumes mixed with fruity lotions evoke a feeling of walking through a department store as people pass me in the aisles to get to their seats.

A woman sitting behind us leans over and gently touches Dena’s shoulder. She says, “Hello, Sister Hawkins. How are you doing?” I have never heard her addressed in this manner. 

Greg turns around and nods hello, and Dena says, “I’m doing great, Sister Anderson.” Someone at the podium begins to speak, and the woman leans back in her chair. She eyes me with curiosity, adding a warm smile before turning her attention to the man in the stand who goes over the program. 

Dena hands me a hard-backed forest green hymn book opened to the song. I push up my big plastic-framed glasses and sing a high note when I should go low. I continue to follow the words but my voice catches and enters into an accidental falsetto far from the tune everyone else is singing.  My throat goes dry, so I mouth the words instead.  The boys are dressed in slacks or khaki pants and wear long or short-sleeved white button-ups with a tie; they look like miniature versions of their fathers. Another hymn is played, and two teenage boys between the ages of 16-18 sit behind the sacrament table where they silently break the bread and divide it among several trays, covering the trays with white linen cloth when they finish. 

Younger boys ages 12-15 wait for their queue to stand up and distribute the trays of bread to the congregation. After they pass their tray between the rows, they wait for the tray to return into their possession. Their hands are respectfully held together in front of them. Dena tells me  before the service starts that I cannot have the bread or water because I am not a member. I pass the tray to the person next to me. They follow the same routine with the water. Families fill entire rows. Older couples and widows sit together. Girls my age wear cap-sleeved dresses in floral prints with ruffles and wear pantyhose with their kitten heels. I notice their light brown or blonde hair is either braided or curled with their bangs perfectly teased and sprayed into place. 

I touch my hair, and my cheeks grow warm. The dry air makes my hair frizzy and unmanageable. My headband has somewhat contained my wild uneven hair and my bangs swoop down in an awkward chunk of a wave, leaving my forehead exposed slightly, accentuating my acne-covered skin. Before we moved from West Valley, I had cut my hair with a pair of household scissors. My hair that once sat in the middle of my back is now just above my shoulders. I tug at my skirt, hating the way it bunches up when I sit down. I look down at my white canvas shoes that aren’t so white. There is no one in the chapel a shade darker than cream.  

The church service is hard to follow. They use words that are unfamiliar. The man standing at the pulpit is saying something about the power of the Priesthood and blessings. I stop listening to him and watch the families. Each family sits together, with at least three children by their side. Most of the fathers wear a three-piece suit. Mothers glare or hush their children to sit still and be quiet. They end the meeting with the hymn Families Can be Together Forever. A woman from the congregation comes to the pulpit to pray. She mixes modern words with thees and thous and blesses those that couldn’t make it this Sunday will be able to come next time. She closes with, “We pray that thou might bless us with a good rest of the Sabbath.” I look around and realize that I’m the only one that hasn’t bowed my head, crossed my arms, and closed my eyes. I say my own silent prayer that I will remember not to have the urge to accept the invitation to come back here again.

I am here in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from my friends and a mother across the Pacific. The closest city is an hour and a half away. A typical one-liner in any small town is that if you blink, you’ll miss it. Heading North on Highway 6 at the end of Main Street takes you right past the cheese plant and restaurant to Provo and on through to Salt Lake City. Going straight on Highway 50 East takes you South to St. George, and if you continue to follow the road West, you will end up in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

My father takes a liking to the area. “It’s a great place to raise kids.” He says this to people he meets around town. 

“I like that they care about family so much.” He says to me. Over the years, I have learned to nod in agreement. He’s not asking for my opinion. Besides, I don’t have much to say about raising families. I feel like I’m barely in one. He decides that this is where we will live. He finds a job with an electrician. Three days later, he rents out a three-bedroom ranch-style home five miles West of Delta. We now live in the town of Hinckley, even more, remote than Delta. If you continue to follow Highway 50 West, it will take you over the state border to Nevada. Hinckley’s population is just under 700. There is a gas station, a church, and a post office. If you want to buy groceries, you’ll have to head into Delta. 

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Those who live in the towns surrounding Delta attend school there. I begin my seventh-grade year at Delta Middle School. The locals call it Delda. My English teacher Mrs. Tuttle asks me to introduce myself. I stand up next to my desk. I don’t know what to do with my hands, so I hold them behind my back. My heart is pounding in my chest, “I’m Desiree Bania. I moved here from West Valley, New York, and I live in H-Hinckley, Utah.” Mrs. Tuttle gives me a cursory nod and smiles. I sit down feeling foolish. I could have said other things, but my mind draws a blank.  Of course, I live in Utah. Why did I say that? I feel the blood rush to my cheeks, and my ears redden. My armpits grow damp. I want to melt into my seat. I hate it here. I go home and cry for hours. In my darkened room, my father asks what’s wrong. I tell him I don’t want to go back.

He tells me that isn’t possible.

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First of all, thanks for reading my work. This concludes the excerpt from my memoir, Belonging. Stayed tuned for more. Thanks for stopping by!

The Addiction: Part 2

This is Part 2 of The Addiction. Part 1 is available here on my blog. After leaving Mormonism, I threw myself into the sport of ultra running, got remarried for the 2nd time to another runner. As I said in Part 1, I realized that we had love, but it wasn’t for each other. It was for running. During that time of realization, the man I met at work changed how I understood the meaning of love.

Continue reading “The Addiction: Part 2”

Motivational Monday

Oh, Sweet Monday

It has reared its head once again. Here’s your motivational Monday pick me up. The day sandwiched between Sunday and Tuesday. It’s the beginning of a new week the promise of starting that diet, unhabit (don’t bother looking it up, it’s not a word), workout, etc… Monday is also the day where we have must wake up to an alarm, check our work e-mails, review weekly schedules, return phone calls, and basically get back into adult mode. We have to untangle ourselves from the weekend and dive back into getting stuff done. But, there are things that prevent us from doing what we need to accomplish.

Roadblocks

My roadblocks are in the guise of my two and one-year-old girls. My one-year-old has learned how to crawl out of the crib which makes it doubly difficult when I’m trying to write through her nap time and she does NOT want to take a nap. So I hold her in my lap while I one hand peck at my words.

I could go on and on about roadblocks, but here’s the thing, it’s life, and if we want something bad enough, like writing that short story or finishing that novel that has been on the back burner since 2016. We will fight for that time and work around those roadblocks because it matters to us and who would we be if weren’t writing, right?

Write it Out

What’s preventing you from doing the things you love to do? Stop worrying, it doesn’t solve anything and start writing. Writing can be the most therapeutic thing you can do for yourself and those around you is to vent on paper or type it out. Whatever it is you’re going through, it has to get out of your system and that means out of your head, otherwise, your brain will hold it hostage and keep it repeating on autoplay. WRITE IT OUT! Don’t let roadblocks get in your way and just write the damn thing.

This is a pep talk for me as much as it is for you. I’m here to tell you to keep chipping away and you’ll get there. Here’s to Mondays. We loathe them and love them. We have the opportunity to make the best use of our time or waste it. Use it wisely, at least that’s what I’m trying to do. Here are some of my favorite quotes to keep me going.

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10 Motivational Monday Quotes