The Sound Of Words: Writing Lessons From The Birds

Frigate Bird - Galapagos

When you hear birds singing, do you listen to what they are saying?

I’m no birder. Not me. I can only identify the most obvious – blue jay, cardinal, nuthatch… Even so, my spirits lift every spring when I hear the birds singing again.

I now recognize some of the bird calls even if I can’t match call to bird or identify many of the birds I see.

One bird I call the ‘bath tub bird’ because its burbly, warbly call sounds like one of those old-fashioned whistles that kids used to play with in the bath, filling it with water before blowing. The quick chit-chit-chit of a pair of birds living in the blackberry bushes is a special delight. And the clear liquid song of another bird high in the maple trees.

This last weekend I decided to try and find out what some of these birds are. A lesson in writing humility. Continue reading

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Perceptual Shifts: Seeing The Strange In The Everyday

sky and clouds

 

I’m sure most writers have heard this advice at some point: write from the known to the unknown. The theory is that this grounds the reader and avoids confusion.

When I was analyzing Virginia Woolf’s “Between the Acts” for my MFA craft essay at Lesley University, I noticed that she often did the reverse. I loved the disorienting effect and the immediacy this gave to the narrative.

Early on in Continue reading