I have a strong gathering instinct. I collect boxes, hats, rusty flattened bottlecaps for collages and creek-worn sticks to color with my hoard of Berol prismacolor pencils. When I was a kid I’d lie in bed imagining I was a squirrel who lived in a hollow tree, foraging for acorns, twigs and whatever it takes to make squirrel furniture.
Most of us have collections. I ask people all the time in workshops, Do you collect anything? Stamps? Shells? ’57 Chevys? Raccoons? Money? Leopards ? Meteorites? Wisecracks? What a coincidence, I collect them too. Hats, coins, cougars, old Studebakers. That is, I collect the words. Pith helmet, fragment, Frigidaire, Quarrel, love seat, lily.
I gather them into my journal.
The great thing about collecting words is they’re free; you can borrow them, trade them in, or toss them out. I’m trading in (and literally composting) some of my other collections— driftwood, acorns and bits of colored Easter egg shell—for words. Words are lightweight, unbreakable, portable, and they’re everywhere. You can even make them up. Frebrent, bezoncular, zuber. Someone made up the word padiddle.
A word can trigger or inspire a poem; and words in a stack or thin list can make up poems. Because I always carry my journal with me, I’m likely to jot down words on trains, in the car, at boring meetings (where I appear to be taking notes), on hikes and in bed.“
– quote from Susan Wooldridge’s book called “Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words