Writing Exercise: What’s in a Word?

I’m preparing to rewrite my second novel (again) so thought I’d limber up with some writing exercises, get the old fiction juices flowing. I’ll share the instructions for each exercise and the results, and you can ‘write along’ with me, if you like. Note: I’m doing these exercises longhand and then typing them up – I find it works better that way. But you can type your answers if you prefer.

One Word

The idea with this exercise is to randomly pick a word out of the dictionary (or any book you have to hand) and then to write for 5 minutes around that word. Don’t think too hard about it, just write whatever comes up.

I picked: Claustrophobic

Ball & Chain“Trying to think of something to write feels claustrophobic, trapped in my head and the loop of my brain weeds. How to break out, find some space, open sky, freedom. Not thinking, beginner’s mind, open to what is. I’ve slipped into Zen – it follows me around, I can’t escape it, like a ball and chain. But this is something meant to free me, let me loose on the world. Why do I resist freedom? Do I like the pressure of claustrophobia, like being under water? Is it easier to sit in one place, trapped, waiting for the end? If I hate being trapped, why do I resist freedom? Too much responsibility. Anything could happen. At least you know where you are with a ball and chain.”

Seems a bit short for 5 minutes of writing, but there it is – no editing (well, a few tweaked punctuation marks!), some interesting thoughts, nothing surprising. I like the ‘loop of my brain weeds’ – don’t know where that came from, might be useful somewhere.

Whenever I do an exercise like this it tends to become a kind of self-excavation. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s good to dredge up the sludge and get things moving in the darkness. Writing without any plan or reason helps you to discover how your mind works. As Meg Rosoff would say, it reveals what’s in your colander. I’m obviously feeling a need for freedom…

Notepad smallYour turn! Pick a word from a book (close your eyes then jab your finger on a page) or use one of the following random words:

Possibility     Dilapidated     Transmit     Arcadian     Winch

Don’t think too hard and write for five minutes. If you’re feeling brave, share the results in the comments below, or write it up on your blog and share the link. I look forward to reading the ramblings of your brain weeds!

(see, I knew I’d work it in somewhere…)



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