I posted an article on BookPleasures.com about the similarities between art and writing, entitled Jackson Pollack Writing. I’ve also posted it below for readers of this blog. It explains where the following exercise came from and how it may help your writing.
Exercise: We play with words all the time in our poetry. Sanford Lyne, who I have written about before, suggests we do poetry sketches where we use predetermined words as the basis of our poems. We can do this in shorts stories as well – a line here, a moment there. But how do we play with words and meaning on a grander scale? How do we unlock our conventional thoughts to delve deeper and more imaginative? What type of method can help us surprise ourselves when we step aside and let what is really us come to life?
It’s kind of hard to “dance” while writing, the way Pollack can be seen choreographing his paintings, but we can choreograph our writing in new ways. What if we took our writing, a paragraph at a time, and disconnected the words from each other so we could rebuild them into new structures? We could deconstruct an entire paragraph and reassemble it to see whether it allows us to make new connections, move deeper, open ourselves to previously unperceived possibilities, and allow us to manipulate meaning in new ways.
So here is the task. Below you will find a paragraph from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Prodigal Summer. I have already moved all the words around and put them into different sized fonts. What you need to do is to use these words (and yes, you can add others or delete some of these) to come up with a paragraph of your own. On Friday, I will post the original paragraph for you to see how different yours is from it and how you can play with words to create new meaning. I hope you are up for the challenge.
Afterwards, I hope you will try this in the future with your own writing. Perhaps you can’t get a paragraph to work the way you want it to, or maybe you find your writing descending into boring cliché’s and need a way to break lose. Or you could use this to just jumpstart your thinking about what needs to change in your writing. I’d love to know how it works for you!