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The Power of Worms (and words)

Have you ever thrown a book across the room?

Back in the fall, there was a question that made its rounds on Twitter (probably other social media, too, but I discovered it on Twitter thanks to Paige!) and it was, “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”

You’ve probably seen it. Probably laughed at it. Probably thought about your own answer to it. And so did I! Except, I did so through the lens of one of my characters: Lyric. All you need to know about Lyric is that he waltzed onto the page after I’d been working on this story for 8 years without him and now I can’t imagine the world of my WIP without its loveable Lyric. He’s the Wordsmith Favorite, our unofficial mascot, and he’s even got his own emoji on our Discord server.

But that’s a lyrical tangent. What you need to know is that I took Lyric’s POV and explored what my own characters would do if Lyric asked them this question. I had him ask everyone. His best friends, his love interest, the smol but powerful child, and even the Big-Bad-Evil-Guy (BBEG). He asked everyone about this and I had a blast writing out their answers to his question. Did I take too many words to do so? Oh yes. That’s one of my trademarks (and Lyric’s). The point is, I took a simple question from Twitter and used it to develop part of my character’s personality.

Little did I know that that decision would lead to myself being haunted by this question of worms and love for months to come.

You see, when I picked up a random book from my bookshelf and started reading it in January, I didn’t expect it to be one that would have me slamming it shut and throwing it onto the couch beside me. I’d expect that from some of Lauren or another Wordsmith’s work—not Pope Benedict XVI’s An Introduction to Christianity.

If I had read this book last year, at this time, it wouldn’t have had the same effect on me. Would the words have still been impactful? Yeah. But they wouldn't have hit me hard enough to cause the book throwing described above. Because yesteryear at this time, I wasn’t being haunted by words and worms. And guess what?

Words matter.

Small lines, squiggles, curves, dots, angles, all turned into symbols turned into patterns that we can look at and not merely make sense of them—but let them reveal something to us. For example, when we write the word ‘love’ we know that a reader will look at the letters ‘l-o-v-e’ and their mind will put the letters together into the word ‘love’. The word love will instantly call to mind all sorts of things that they associate with love.

A spouse. A friend. A child. Warmth. Hope. Comfort. Passion. Safety. You get the idea.

Words paint a picture in the mind and bring us not only to say something but to show something. That’s why mere lines on a page can bring us to toss a book into the couch or across a room. Words mean something. They reveal something to us, about ourselves, about the world around us, meaning veiled behind the fog of our humanity.

For example; the idea of ‘becoming a worm’ means much more to me than it should, it’s something silly but it’s inexplicably tied with my writing life now.

Those words reveal to me something more than I can explain, they remind me of Lyric. And the joy that Lyric brings me with his penchant for rambles, his way of asking weird questions, and his character as a whole that I never intended to create—but just is—and the protectiveness of my fellow writers over him. They represent my joy in writing.

Words mean something.

And sometimes, the words we write will unintentionally cause a reader to do something rash. Like throw a book.

In January, I was stressed. I was busy beyond belief and struggling to understand God’s love for me in my busy-ness because I couldn’t take a breath to feel His presence. I hadn’t had a chance to write in weeks. My creativity was starting to languish, and I don’t use that word lightly, and I started praying about if I should drop writing for a while as a whole and instead focus on the rest of my life.

So I picked up a book from my bookshelf and started to read. Pope Benedict XVI, in his wisdom, probably never imagined that he’d cause me to realize that I can’t give up writing yet.

Because I was struck many times while reading An Introduction to Christianity. Many times. There were passages about letting God love you, about the need to not only give but to receive, and then there was the line that made me throw the book down beside myself. I nearly sent it flying into the Christmas tree.

“Because God himself became a mere worm. . . . and thereby turned history towards its final victory of love.”

God became a worm.

A victory of love.

Would you still love me if I was a worm?”

Hi Lyric.

At once it was like I could see through that veil of fog in my mind. Through my self-doubt. Through my busy-ness. Through my weary creative mind.

My soul was seen in that moment. Those words weren’t mere words. They were a revelation that I needed in that moment, that I needed to know that I should carry on, and all because of a worm stuck in my own head about love and worms themselves.

And those moments? Those moments of revelation? Those are the moments that writers live for. Sometimes we write with the intention of garnering reactions. Maybe even times we hope will even cause the throwing of a book across the room by a reader because of what we do in our own worlds. With our own words.

Oftentimes, these are moments we write that deal with great revelations. Whether it be a revelation of life, a revelation of death, a revelation of love, they are the moments when we lift the veil from our story for a moment and show the readers our own souls.

And yet, the times that my own writing has been the most impactful on someone is when they read a line that I didn’t think twice about and yet it touched them, it became their “if I was a worm” moment.

As a writer I hope to never, ever, forget the impact my words can have on another. Whether it is something I reveal or something that reveals meaning in another’s soul—words matter.

We end up with our own wordworms in our minds, things that are inexplicably linked with creative endeavors, with our faith journeys, with our desire for Sainthood, with our doubts—with who we are.

Words cease to be mere words when they become a window to the soul. Small squiggles on a page convict us, enchant us, and can even remind us of something so basic that we forget it all the time:

God became a worm so that He could win a victory of love; because He loves us.

Even when we throw books across the room at reminders of His love.

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