In Your Own Words: Writing about Love

August 6, 2014

As common as it is to try to express love in words, it often proves difficult to categorize or define it. In writing about love, many have turned to metaphors to tell the tale. Love is an ocean, a pearl, a key, a battle, a flame, a tree. Love is a river, a journey, a guiding star, or as Shakespeare put it, an “ever-fixed mark.” Writer Diane Ackerman says love is both ever present and ever evasive, infusing our lives as “the great intangible” even as it begs for the legs, arms, lips, and touch by which we know it best. Although the virtue of love calls us into relationship, both with those we know and those we don’t, the truth is that it begins as an embodied experience with the tangible world around us. Our first knowledge of love is born in the particular relationships we have with those close at hand, those within range of our touch, our glance, or our words.

In a poem by Ann Filemyr titled “Grape” she writes,

I felt it once
the love that cannot be broken. The lock
picked, door ajar, even if the window is rusted shut.

What metaphors might you use to write about love on this day?

Look around you. Make a list of random objects you see and some of the things you associate with them. If you see an unlit candle, for instance, you might list candle, wick, wax, flame, fire, spark, match, torch, etc. Challenge yourself to include basic items you wouldn’t normally notice— window, piano key, painting frame, table legs, door hinge. When you have a reasonable list of diverse items, write a top-of-the-mind sentence for each word as a metaphor for love. Write down whatever comes to mind without screening. For instance, Love is a key on the piano that we strike many times to keep its note sounding. Or Love is a window that I some- times slam shut.

You can also expand the metaphor beyond its limits, as Mother Teresa did when describing love as a fruit “in season at all times.” If nothing comes to mind for a word, go ahead and skip it. Or if you find yourself writing a common metaphor, try writing its opposite to branch into a different association. For instance, Love is not a rose; it is the ground on which the rose’s petals will fall in time. Challenge yourself to explore metaphors you haven’t heard or seen before.

When you’ve written metaphors for about five minutes, if you feel you’re done listing but want to keep writing, look back at your sentences and phrases, choose one, and keep writing about that metaphor, beginning with the words:

Love is . . .

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