Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Words Of Your Life

I've been told this blog isn't very personal. I've been told this blog is about as friendly "as a German bouncer at a North Korean nightclub".

There is a reason for this. A writer's life is very dull. I tried to explain this fact to said critic but he wouldn't have it. He said blogs need personality. He said blogs need to show something of their author. Mine doesn't, apparently. German bouncer and all that.

The thing is, we're all short on time and concentration spans. So rather than post a bio that might make your heads spin sideways from boredom, I thought I would follow my friend Jeanne's lead at her lovely College of Life blog ( Jeanne, you see, suggests we all write a Word List. What an inspirational idea.

A Word List is a writing exercise where you imagine your life as a game of scrabble. You simply jot down words that you associate with your life. No punctuation. No upper case. Just words. Your life in a list. Think of it as an abbreviated memoir. I love it. So brilliant.

So do try it. Find the words of your own life. I have. You might just find (like me) that the answers are quite enlightening. (Oh – and because I like pictures, I've inserted some of those too.)


writing, books, journals, lists and libraries (a house is not a house without a library) 
photography, leicas, the iphone instamatic app
bookstores –waterstone's, rizzoli, the second-hand treasures of the strand

midtown new york – henri bendel, bergdorf goodman, bryant park, central park, the NY public library
shelter island, tybee island, harbour island, martha's vineyard
lord howe, key west, lake como, bellagio, (and italian villas sleeping in the sun)

london in summer

paris in autumn
our garden in spring
peonies, tea roses, hydrangeas and purple wisteria
villandry, versailles and the luxembourg gardens in summer
the v&a (oh, the v&a!)

cecil beaton, collages, creativity in all shapes and forms
pink and red (together or apart)
architecture, property, floorplans, country cottages and grand english mansions
 any television series with architectural eye candy, gorgeous costumes, and sexy and humorous characters doing unmentionable things with people they shouldn't be doing unmentionable things with
french handkerchief linen, preferably in white
ceylon sapphires, pink diamonds, pale blue tanzanite
jack nicholson and diane keaton – any movie, any plot, no matter how bad
mr winston churchill
mr robert redford
savannah, georgia, or any song with it in the title (midnight train to georgia, georgia on my mind...)

mr ray charles
ms diana krall
ms barbra streisand
lemon, lime and bitter drinks
freshly made key lime pie (although best eaten in the florida keys)

cavalier king charles spaniels, and okay, jack russells too

black and white

hermés faubourg 24 fragrance (okay, hermés anything)
ms audrey hepburn
sir sidney poitier
quirky films – midnight in paris, the darjeeling limited, you've got mail, the lake house
the great barrier reef
writers, artists, people with humour, and stories to tell

men in cufflinks
people with manners

my long-suffering fiancé

cycling (best done on old-fashioned cruisers with wicker baskets)
swimming (best done on tropical islands)
laughing (best done with people you love)

And lastly, family and friends, wherever they may be
(Pictured above, my father with his, er, friend in the wilds of Alaska)


  1. What a lovely post. I beg to differ with whomever it was that said your blog posts were "impersonal" - I think that they're deeply personal as you always share your experiences of things you have done and seen, but in a measured and considered way, which highlights your professionalism as a writer. Keep up the good work! E xx

  2. I have started my list, very carefully written in a beautiful leather bound book. It is for my children to find when the time comes as I find this list very revealing and I am not quite sure I want my children to know me quite that well yet!!!!!!!!

    I enjoy all your posts (obviously or I wouldn't be here so constantly!) but I really enjoy the ones about the house, the dogs the snippets about the move etc.
    and I thoroughly enjoy our emails.

    I do like the analogy though...can I pinch it? Please ask your critic!!!!!!! (I really do know a German bouncer....!!!)

    Julienne xxxx

  3. I am working on my list too, was going to email it to Jeanne, but in hindsight I may just post it on my blog,don't know when as it just seems to be getting longer and longer..

    And I agree, your blog is not boring, but entertaining and thought provoking, keep up the good work.

  4. The reason we like your blog is because it is NOT blah blah blah

  5. Tell your friend he is wrong. The commenters say so!
    I find your posts personal and very charming, they are just not filled with minutia.
    You post the most beautiful photos with a thoughtful discussion on the chosen topic.
    Love the word list idea. In a way an easy but meaningful exercise in self reflection.

  6. Hi Janelle, your blog is a pleasure to read, definately not boring, full of beautiful places you have travelled to. Enjoy your Sunday.x

  7. I think your personality comes through in your blog. Maybe your critic just doesn't 'get you' and what you're about. I personally love all your blogs as you seem to be interested in similar things as me. If you only knew how excited I get when I see you've written a blog on books or libraries...and the images, love them.

  8. Thank you all for your very kind support. I was so touched!
    As Jules suspected, I think this 'gentleman' critic was being tongue-in-cheek. I do know him and he's very funny. (I love people with a sense of humour.)
    And I DO tend to hide a little. I just feel my life is very simple compared to many other's.

    Jules - I think your children would love you even if you announced you had been a Playboy model!

    E – what a lovely comment. Your notes are always so kind. I do love hearing from you.

    Nana - do email your list to Jeanne but post it on your blog as well. I always like to look at people's lists. Lists reading is so much fun, don't you think?

    Dear Bumble, I think you are very cute. My dogs, Coco and Cooper think so too.

    Claire, Samantha and Sharyn, thank you all. I do feel embarrassed. I wasn't fishing for blog compliments, I promise! I was merely posting what I thought was a funny, very witty criticism. But it's nice to see that you all like The Library. I shall tell the Assistant Librarian. She is chewing on a bone as I type this, but she will wag her tail with delight.

    J xxx

  9. Fabulous list Janelle, but for my money there's only one word on your awesome list that matters to me & that's the very last one... 'friends'. That's what I feel every time I visit The Library, a lovely warm Librarian who guides me to the information I need, leaves me alone to flip through it & then let's me take the book home without stamping the return date.
    Millie xx
    P.S. I started writing a list for Jeanne, but scrapped it after realizing I was still under the post-op influence of Panadeine Forte & it made 'very interesting' reading!

  10. Oh Janelle...I just love your list and am so so delighted that you created your own word list. It has been so much fun to read everyone's... they are coming in from all over. What a wonderful world we live in when something so little as a few words can give so much joy. I really appreciated your mention...and getting to know you a bit better.

    You know how I feel about your are not to change one single thing! You are warm, generous, talented and without doubt one of the most gifted writers please stay.. just as you are.. :)

    Jeanne xx

  11. Oh my! I can only second everything Mills and Jeanne say. Your blog is an absolute delight. I wouldn't change a jot of it. J x

  12. Hi, I love your blog, just found you via the wonderful Jeanne at Collage of Life. I'll be thinking about my words now...

  13. I think your blog is perfect.

    I struggle with mine, I don't want to reveal too much and really i don't want to be another blogger spitting out the minutiae of her life, that's what diaries are for.


Thank you for stopping by. It's always lovely hearing from The Library's readers.

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