The Joy of a Good Verb

by Meryl K Evans | Category: Language, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 5 comments

Welcome to meryl’s notes blog (this here place you’re lookin’ at) in Plano, Texas. We’re honored to be a stop in Pesi Dinnerstein’s WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour. We’re giving away a copy of A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys! [affiliate] Read on to see how you can win.

Dinnerstein Pesi The Joy of a Good VerbAbout Pesi Dinnerstein: Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) has written selections for the best-selling series Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories. Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years.

She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well.

The Joy of a Good Verb by Pesi Dinnerstein

I’ve never liked verbs very much.  Adjectives have always been more my speed.  How things look and feel and smell are generally more interesting to me than what they do.  Whether someone sips or swigs or guzzles their coffee concerns me less than the fact that it’s steaming hot, creamy beige and mocha-flavored with a hint of vanilla.

Most of the verbs that are part of my daily life are not particularly exciting.  I drive from here to there; I return a phone call; I lose my keys — I find my keys — I lose my keys again; I unload the dishwasher — I reload the dishwasher; I water my garden; I steam my vegetables; I try to remember to breathe.  It’s all necessary, but pretty boring.

I would certainly rather spend my time in the presence of a flaming orange sunset or an iridescent ocean wave.  Hanging out with an adjective is so much more satisfying.

However, a few years ago, something shifted.  As I was writing A Cluttered Life and thinking about all the things that make my life unmanageable, I couldn’t help but notice that my world was becoming more and more crowded with adjectives and the objects to which they were attached.

Then, one day, an old friend came to visit.  She had never seen my house in quite the state it was in at that moment, and her eyes opened wide as she stepped through the front door.

“This place feels very . . . stuck,” she said, expressing many layers of meaning in  that one well-chosen word — which, interestingly enough, just happened to be an adjective.

She was absolutely right.  My home was stuck; my things were stuck; and I was feeling increasingly stuck myself.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that what I needed were a few dynamic verbs to help me break through my own inertia.  The ones I was currently engaged with — observing, reflecting, writing — were not creating much movement in my life.  The situation clearly called for action.  Organize; fold; file; recycle; throw out — do something!  I immediately put the book aside.  It was obviously time to stop describing my mess and start dealing with it.

And, then, a strange thing happened.  When I returned to the manuscript, I found myself dissatisfied with many of the chapters that had seemed perfectly fine to me before.  Now, they felt stuck as well.

So, I began to delete adjectives and add verbs.  It was painful at first, but, before long, light and air seemed to flow into my sentences — and I could feel the manuscript beginning to breathe.

But change is not easy to hold on to.  Although I’ve come to appreciate the value of a good verb — in my life as well as in my writing — I continue to prefer the comfort of a friendly adjective.

And when I take my morning walk tomorrow, I probably still won’t notice the running and skating and bicycling going on because, once again, I’ll be too busy enjoying the beautiful, brightly colored, deliciously fragrant world around me.

A Cluttered Life The Joy of a Good VerbAbout Dinnerstein’s Book: Insightful, unsettling, and wildly funny, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys (Seal Press) is the story of Pesi Dinnerstein’s quest to create a simple and orderly life—only to discover that simplicity is not so simple and what constitutes clutter is not always perfectly clear. When a chance encounter with an old acquaintance reveals the extent to which disorder has crept into every corner of her existence, Pesi determines to free herself, once and for all, of the excess baggage she carries with her. Along the way—with the help of devoted friends, a twelve-step recovery program, and a bit of Kabbalistic wisdom—her battle with chaos is transformed into an unexpected journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.

Comment and win: The prize: winner gets a copy of A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys!. For a chance to win, please leave a comment about clutter, getting organized, changing your vocabulary or whatever comes to mind after reading this post (other than you wanna win!). You have until 11:59pm on January 31, 2012 to qualify for the drawing. The unbiased and robotic Random.org has the honor of picking the winner.

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5 comments

  • Posted by Tbeth on January 24th, 2012, 6:16 PM

    Oh. My. Word. (Yes, i worked a pun in there. ) She has rather perfectly described my world. I am reading this blog while on a break from struggling with my own cluttered writing for an employee magazine. And eventually tonight, I will sleep in a bedroom unrestfully, distractingly decorated in ‘eclecticlutter.’ Now, if I were only a bit more clever and go-getter-y about writing a book …

  • Posted by Donna Volkenannt on January 25th, 2012, 10:34 AM

    What a wise and wonderful post. I already have a copy of Pesi’s book, so don’t enter me in the contest. I just wanted to stop by to read what she had to say about verbs–and I’m glad I did.
    Donna

  • Posted by Sue on January 25th, 2012, 1:03 PM

    I know that I am much more at peace with myself if my surroundings are organized and uncluttered, but that’s the first thing to go when I get busy.

  • Posted by avisannschild on January 27th, 2012, 10:05 PM

    Ah I can so relate to this — at least the part about being stuck in clutter and needing a few good action verbs to help me out! (Not sure I’ve ever thought about preferring adjectives to verbs, though.) I’ve been following this tour and would love to win a copy of Pesi’s book!

  • Posted by Pesi Dinnerstein on January 29th, 2012, 1:38 AM

    Thank you, Meryl, for having me on your blog. And thank you, TBeth, Donna (who already feels like an old friend), and Sue for your comments. I’ll certainly be adding “electiclutter” to my vocabulary!

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