By Molly Davis Lind
Writing is an art form. To become a better writer, one needs practice and engagement in opportunities that allow for creative expression.
Creative writing is not about grammar. It’s about experimentation. Taking risks. Playfulness. It’s about finding your unique voice and being brave enough to show it to the world. Write in a way that sounds like the real you – not the way you think you should sound or how you want others to hear you.
If you would like to challenge your creativity and impress yourself with poetic instincts you once thought non-existent, I implore you to practice one or all of the below exercises. I promise you’ll surprise yourself with your newly awakened artistry and see words in an entirely different light.
The below exercises are excerpted from the ever-so-wise and highly recommended book, Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider.
Exercise #1: Word Pairing
On your page, list 15 nouns in one column. In the next column, list 15 adjectives/modifiers. Do the lists quickly; try not to make any connections and let them be as random as possible. When you have the two lists, connect nouns and modifiers in the most unlikely possible pairs. Give yourself 20 minutes to use as many pairs as you can in a poem. The following is an example:
It was a freakish day in Nebraska.
As blackish rain scraggled out of the blood red cloud
a freckled man wore a sour puss expression
as the water crumpled his socks.
Prunish and freckled with raindrops
he sat on his creaky wood porch
with his dog Pumpkin Head
and dreamt of Paris
a city bejeweled with twinkling lights.
As he put on his gloves
to brave the storm
Pumpkin Head lovingly nuzzled his arm.
On this freakish day in Nebraska
Pumpkin Head was his only comforter.
Exercise #2: The Room
Describe a motel room in a way that tells readers about the characters who have rented it. Describe it without knowing what emotion you want to evoke – just use very concrete details and allow the feeling in the story or open to come to you from those details. Readers like to be cocreatorrs with the writer. If you give them a fuzzy generality, they can’t focus and allow the rest to emerge from their imaginations. Limit yourself to 20 minutes.
Exercise #3: The Scramble
This is a playful exercise that helps to disconnect habitual ways of thinking. Write a simple little incident, a short narrative (20 to 24 sentences). Example from Writing Alone and with Others:
Now turn to a clean page. Number down the left side of the page 1, 2, 3 and again 1, 2, 3 – leaving no blank lines until you have eight sets of 1, 2, 3. Then write your incident again, beginning on line number 1, then skipping to the next line numbered 1, and continuing, using only lines numbered 1, skipping lines 2 and 3. When you have filled all the lines numbered 1, go to the top and right on each line numbered 2. When you get to the bottom, go back to the top and wrote on the lines numbered 3.
The result is scrambled and can be fresh and interesting raw material for a poem. (click to expand image)
If you write, you’re a writer. To get better, you need to practice. Performing simple exercises like the above can help awaken your creative genius and give you confidence in your abilities.
Molly Davis Lind is Senior Communication Strategist at MetaDesign San Francisco.