Word Harvesting

(Cropped) Fridge Words by Jon Fife via Flickr.

Earlier this year, I took a writing class focused on narrative travel writing, taught by my friend Lavinia Spalding. One of the techniques she emphasized from our first session is called Word Harvesting, and it’s a valuable tool far beyond travel writing.

How to Harvest Words

Since writers deal in words, hopefully descriptive and evocative, regular reading is one way to ensure you always have a fresh supply in mind when sitting down to write. (No surprises here.)

But Lavinia takes this a step further. She recommends reading one poem every day and keeping a running list of words that jump out at you. Nouns and verbs are favored over ubiquitous and often superfluous adjectives.

Some of My List — Grip / Sanctified / Romp / Blossom / Playthings / Hiss /Abide / Rapture / Uttermost / Den / Nerves / Marred / Flare / Trumpet / Soothing /Lustrous / Radiant / Stymied / Satellite / Measure / Bushel / Rare / Fetched / Dribble / Fluid / Peak / Valley / Peekaboo / Pop / Madcap / Sheltering / Pasted / Tumult / Rustle / Rutted / Gloat / Temper / Punishment / Bawdy / Unruffled / Vicissitudes / Luckless

The next time you sit down to write, pull out your list and try to work those words into your essay, blog post, or journal entry. I found it easier than expected and lots of fun.

What If You Aren’t A Writer?

The exercise is still valuable. Collecting rare words that pique your interest helps you engage with whatever you’re reading, and adding a little poetry to your day can even be soothing at times. It helps us to better describe the peaks and valleys in the tumult of our daily lives. Often we use the same unhelpful vocabulary stymied by the lack of new language and mental images — words that are not up to the task.

So instead of remaining on the same rutted path, treat words like playthings. Use them whenever you feel the urge, unruffled by the newness of their sound on your lips. Pop, dribble, and trumpet their entry into your lexicon, not gloating over your new knowledge, but relishing the specificity with which it allows you to communicate.


P.S. – There are tons of options to add more poetry to your life, including daily poetry email lists. This is the poetry app I use. It’s surprisingly satisfying to “spin” the wheel and see what category and corresponding poems show up. Today’s category = Humor & Love.

Poetry App

Scenes from a Trip to Paris

Flying into Paris

February is celebrated as a month filled with love and romance, but because I’m somewhat ambivalent about Valentine’s Day itself, I’ve decided to skip it here and write about Paris instead.

If there’s a more romantic city in the world, I haven’t seen it yet.

I’ve visited Paris a handful of times since my first trip for my 20th birthday while studying abroad. Now, I keep an ongoing list of spots I want to seek out on my next trip and follow a handful of expat bloggers who live in the city. At the slightest provocation, I could be convinced to return.

Paris, Eiffel Tower

Paris has been showing up a lot lately in my life, especially in my reading, and at some point, I realized that I had never shared my favorite spots in Paris here or even any pictures from my last trip.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite spots in and around the City of Light:

Breakfast at Ladurée

Ladurée, 21 Rue Bonaparte. Patisserie and beautiful breakfast spot.

Ladurée Kouign Amman

Kouign Amman at Ladurée.

Les Deux Margot

Les Deux Margot, 6 place Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Les Deux Margot

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris


Facades in Paris

Pierre Hermé

Pastries at Pierre Hermé, 72 Rue Bonaparte.

The Seine

Parisan Breakfast

Place de Vosges

Place de Vosges

Ma Bourgogne

Outdoor seating at Ma Bourgogne.

La Palette, Paris

Happy hour at La Palette, 43 Rue de Seine.

La Palette, Paris

Musée National Eugène Delacroix

Musée National Eugène Delacroix, 6 Rue de Furstenberg.


La Grande Épicerie de Paris

Aisles and aisles of gourmet food at La Grande Épicerie de Paris.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Little Breizh

Little Breizh, 11 Rue Grégoire de Tours. Specialties from Normandy.


Buckwheat crepes with goat cheese and ham, great when paired with hard cider.

Marche Raspail

Marche Raspail, rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes. Tuesday, Friday morning.

Le Petit Machon

Le Petit Machon, 158 Rue Saint Honoré. Specialties from Lyon.

Saint Marcellin Cremeux, Le Petit Machon

Saint Marcellin Cremeux

Day Trip to Champagne

Day trip to Champagne

Moët & Chandon, Day Trip to Champagne

Moët & Chandon.

Zimmerlin Flamant, Mutigny

Zimmerlin Flamant. Mutigny, Champagne.

Musée de l'Orangerie

Musée de l’Orangerie, home of Claude Monet’s Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies).

Rue Bonaparte

Rue Bonaparte



As you can see, I’m not at all ambivalent about Paris. The rhythm of the city, the winding side streets, the beautiful architecture, and incredible food; for me, it’s romance endures.


P.S. – Do you know why Paris is called the City of Light? I didn’t. Not only did the nickname stem from the city’s role as a center of education and culture during the Enlightenment, but it was also among the first cities in Europe to embrace gas street lighting in the 1860s.