A blank page. The image conjures up different things for different people. It can suggest a clean slate—a fresh start. Starting over without old baggage. It can hint at new beginnings, starting from scratch, at a world of possibilities—a place where you can do anything you want. Sometimes the excitement, the hope, the untapped potential is absolutely delicious.
But sometimes…it’s terrifying. Especially when you stare at it and your brain remains as blank as the stark white field in front of you. And the more you stare at this blankness, the more terrified you become. And, of course the more terrified you become, the blanker the blankness becomes.
It’s quite unpleasant. But what can you do? It’s like insomnia—the more you fret and freak that you’re not falling asleep, the more you can’t sleep.
These are the times I turn to word games—something that can get the verbal juices flowing again. Many of the word games I play come from my VCFA writing teacher, Tim Wynne-Jones. The list poem is one of my favorites: Passed on from the Toronto poet, Stuart Mills, you write a poem in which every line begins with the same phrase, such as;
I’ll never forget
When you think of me
You shouldn’t have
Every morning she made
You can also open your favorite novel to any page and look for an evocative short passage and use that.
Another is an exercise called Verbal Remedies. Borrowed from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within: Fold a sheet of paper in half and on the left side list the first ten nouns that you think of, then turn the paper over and think of some occupation, like carpenter, doctor, cook, then write down fifteen verbs that apply to that occupation. Open the page and try joining the nouns with any of the verbs to make interesting sentences.
There are many more great word games on Tim’s website:
|Nina Katchadourian: A Day At The Beach|
I started playing a new game this past week, inspired by artist and photographer Nina Katchadourian’s series titled Sorted Books. (There’s a fabulous show of her work up at the Catharine Clark Gallery right now- http://cclarkgallery.com If you live in the Bay Area, don’t miss it!) Katchadourian culls through different collections of books, choosing titles that when strung together, make a kind of free-form found-words haiku. For instance, three book titles: Don’t Forget!/Can’t Remember What I Forgot/Who Really Cares? Or the four titles: Between You And I/There’s a Dead Person Following my Sister Around/Oh!/I Thought It was Just Me.
They’re amusing, evocative and make great writing prompts. Check out more on her website:
So I thought, hey, I have a lot of books on my bookshelves. Let’s see what kind of interesting word combinations I can string together…
Salvage The Bones/Writing Down The Bones/Negotiating With The Dead/Old Friend From Far Away
Rain Light/ The Nature Of Water And Air/Peace Like a River/The River King
If You Find Me/When You Reach Me./Where I Want to Be/Where Things Come Back
The Diviners/The Probable Future/The Devil All The Time
MadApple/The Poison Diaries/Revenge Of The Witch
Housekeeping/Away/The Land Of Women/ How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly/After the Ecstasy The Laundry
Okay, so maybe mine aren’t quite as wry as Nina’s, but they've provided great fodder for short stints of filling the page.
What can you make from the book titles on your book shelves? What word games do you play to get the words flowing?
Take Good Care,