Creating a Word-making Sketchbook

Language Making Nature is a toolkit, much like a set of paints is for an artist, and like all tools it takes a lot of work to master to master these tools. No one should expect to sit down and start creating beautiful and useful words, nor would you give a set of paints to a beginning artist and expect them to paint a masterpiece.

I have to admit that before I wrote this book I didn't see any reason to experiment with words, but after researching and writing this book I've come to realize that playing and experimenting with pieces of words is the word-generating energy behind language. Language is vibrant and expressive to the extent that people play with new possibilities and make lots of mistakes.

My hope is that people will use Language Making Nature as inspiration for playing with pieces of words to create new ways of thinking about language. And the best way to experiment and play is to carry a small notebook, like an artist's sketchbook, as you practice and respond to the world around you. A sketchbook is a place where you practice in private, where you have no fear of being judged or of seeming silly. A sketchbook is not a place where you create great "art," it's a place for little sketches, for fragments of ideas, for doodling idly.

In my own notebooks I make lists of nonsensical word elements, I try describing colors and textures with new approaches, I assemble fragments into meaningless sequences--all with the intent of just feeling loose and playful with language so these skills because fluid and easy-going means of expression that might eventually work their way into my thinking and writing.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of things I put in my notebooks:

                                                    se for she/he; sie, s-e

                                                    - el - on   the land

                                                    - on - on   the slope

                                                   - on - el   the peak

                                                   ta-bi-bi bird

                                                   treil (trill) conifer trees, treow (trow) deciduous trees

                                                   salmon, samlon-li, samlon-lingering

                                                   I as other, cl - utter - ose

                                                   river, rive-cutting, riven-rusher

                                                   en-him, en-you, en-me

It is only by making thousands of these little word "sketches" that the first inklings of new ideas and new words can begin to arise. The gems that might linger and change culture will arise unexpectedly and unlooked for out of the many experiments you capture in your notebooks, so practice and practice and find as many ways as you can to be silly and creative. Have a ton of fun,, because the goal is not to create "great words," it's to learn how to play with language and see your world with greater clarity and care.