Sharpening Words

Sharpening Words

by Jan Powell


“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”

(Proverbs 27:17 ESV).


Sharpening knives registers low on my list of fun things to do in the kitchen. Close to cleaning tiny crevices and scrubbing the floor. As a result, I neglect the task until I find myself sawing a firm tomato with the same intensity as cutting tough steak with a butter knife. In the same way, sharpened blades streamline meal preparation, frequently immersing my mind in good instruction and quality information improves my writing.

I’ve tended to put off using some of my writing tools and instead forged on with a dull point on my proverbial pencil. COVID-19 isolating provided an excellent opportunity to reorganize my bookcases. That’s when I counted my mini-library of composition—nearly a hundred volumes. No, I haven’t read all of them cover to cover.

Some have passed through my hands and mind multiple times, evidenced by underlining and notes in the margin. Others function for reference. I discovered books I’d forgotten and set them aside to read, knowing every author sharpens me.

As a serious writer, how much time should I spend poring over these books? Some are too long. Who has read an entire dictionary, a thesaurus, or the Chicago Manual of Style? No one I can name, although I appreciate the work that went into creating them. They’ve provided sharp knives for my writing.

Several books provided lists of unusual and less common words to perk up my vocabulary. Others focused on techniques for fiction and non-fiction. A few were workbooks, reminiscent of school days. Each had a different flair and voice. I can’t quote word for word the advice and examples, but reading and reflecting anchored the information in my mind. I don’t remember every meal I’ve cooked and eaten, yet the benefit remains.

Going forward we can all hone our knowledge and skills through books and online seminars and podcasts to prepare inviting and delectable meals of words for our readers’ hearts and minds. The same way sharp knives streamline food preparation, revisiting and using books on the craft helps us serve a delicious and worthy repast.

Lord, may the instruction I read enable me to create a tasty feast of words for my readers. Amen.   




Jan Powell, a graduate of the University of South Florida has two small businesses. Through Writing with You, she offers writing services: editing, rewriting, coaching and ghostwriting for fiction and non-fiction. She loves to help polish manuscripts for others. She has been published in The Wordsmith Journal and Splickety Magazine.

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  1. odell sauls says:

    Thank you Jan, for reminding me that we learn from books we’ve read and sharpen one another as we go down our writing journey

  2. Excellent post today. I need to re-inventory my bookshelves too. Connecting with other writers like you sharpens my gifts and talents. Thanks!

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