Ebullient. Effervescent. Inspired. Words fly around my mind like popcorn at its climax. It all started with a writing practice challenge from Ybonesy over at Red Ravine to set a time for five minutes and write, non-stop, listing every emotion we could think of. Five minutes: now that’s a challenge I can do. I can spare five minutes. I recently bought a tiny timer to keep on my desk, mostly to prevent the pizza from burning while Sarabelle has control of my brain, but also to time freewriting exercises. When the timer beeped, I had a list of 64. I was pumped, stoked, thrilled, energized. I was also hooked.
For two days now, clusters of words have sporadically popped afresh. Yesterday afternoon I dared to hope I’d top 100. Before supper I’d surpassed that goal. Then the fire flared again, and by the time I went to bed last night, the count was up to 185, and 200 seemed possible.
Some nights I would have lain awake, obsessed with the search. Last night I fell asleep the minute my head hit the pillow, but Sarabelle's insistent whispers woke me early. “Brain dead ... stymied ... pumped ... now get up and add those if you value my help!”
Others may be able to jot messages from their muse on a notepad by their bed and go back to sleep. I’m not one of those people. Sarabelle is a relentless taskmaster. Relentless. Isolated. Exhilarated. The list flew right past the 200 mark. Bashful — now why didn’t I already have that one? Up — another case of overlooking the obvious, and the 225th entry.
Am I done? Will there be more? I think the pot will sit quietly for a while, but I do anticipate more after-pops. I can never predict what Sarabelle will come up with.
You may wonder why on earth anyone would need 225 words to describe emotions, especially when bashful, shy, and reticent all mean the same thing. (Reticent — entry #226!) The simple truth is, you don’t, unless you strive for colorful writing. Even then, you still don’t. I could surely have derived this list in way less time, and probably have twice the entries if I’d simply clicked the link to my favorite online thesaurus.
But I love a challenge, and this one has paid off in an unexpected way. As the list grows, I find that the act of compiling it strengthens my ownership and command of the words on the list and forces me to examine various emotions more deeply than I ever have. There may another bonus. In a comment, Ybonesy writes that in a workshop she attended, a UCLA professor mentioned that a rich emotional vocabulary is linked to a rich emotional life. Presumably focusing on the nuances of variation hones our awareness of our internal states.
Lest I stray off topic, for the purposes of writing, a rich vocabulary enables us to keep our writing fresh and lively, and to paint deliciously detailed descriptions.
Vibrant. Zestful. That’s 252 and counting. Did I mention compulsive? Obsessed?
Write now: make your own list of emotions. Take five minutes to get it started, then let the list grow like a sourdough starter, one bubble at a time, for two to four days, stirring occasionally to keep it lively. You can make it even more lively by following Ybonesy's suggestion to freewrite about specific words.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal