Writers working on projects that are destined to be published—to be read—can struggle with nerves.
We edit our words before they have a chance to breathe on the page.
We hold back our true feelings and opinions.
We forget to play with language.
Serious Writers Need to Play
I tend to encourage my clients to move toward practical goals, to create work that is going to be published.
But at the same time, I also encourage writers to play, to get past the gates we put in front of ourselves and try to tap into those first thoughts without fear of being misunderstood.
If you’re a writer taking yourself a little too seriously, I have just the thing for you today—a writing exercise you can play with in your writing journal, where nobody will see it.
The Creative Writing Exercise: A Three-Line Poem
This one comes from Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway. When you’re done, you’ll end up with a three-line poem (24).
Each of the lines has a template you can follow.
➤ Line 1: abstraction + verb + place
➤ Line 2: describe attire
➤ Line 3: summarize an action
Here’s one of her examples.
Hunger yells in the hallway,
draped in cymbals;
he stomps and shouts, “Hear me now!”
Notice how she plays with the template.
- “Hunger” is the abstraction
- “Yells” is the verb
- “In the hallway” is the place
Line 2: “Draped in cymbals” is her way of describing some attire.
Line 3: “He stomps and shouts, ‘Hear me now!'” describes action.
It’s okay if your poems come out a little weird or kooky. That’s part of the fun of it.
Your Turn: Try It!
You’re putting together ideas and images and creating something fresh—have fun with it!
Don’t overthink the noun, the verb, or the action. Simply play.
Join Others in The Art & Craft of Writing
This offers a taste of some of the exercises we are going to play with in The Art and Craft of Writing.
If you’re reading this before August 29, 2022, you have a chance to sign up for a fall intensive I’m running: an eight-week program designed to help you get input on your writing while you learn literary techniques and put them into practice. You’ll get eyes on your work from peers in the cohort and from me, as well!
If you’re coming across this information after the fact, go to annkroeker.com/acw, which will take you to the page where you can sign up if it’s live or get on the waitlist if it’s not.
You don’t have to wait for that or even be in the program to play with writing. You can start today, with this three-line poem.
While you’re playing with your own words in your writing notebook, you don’t have to share anything with anybody. It’s just a chance to warm up—to get the creative juices flowing.
Creative Writing with Your Coach
That said, maybe it helps to know that this writing coach loves to play with words.
Would you like to see what I came up with, just for fun?
Ideas skid across my path;
jaunty in their tilted caps and leprechaun-green suits,
they dance a jig, daring me to catch them.
Time slithers under the bedroom door,
its wrinkled skin sloughing off
as it scrapes the wood and leaves me behind, guilty of pressing snooze once more.
Experiment, Play, and (if you want) Share Your Poem
If you end up writing your own three-line poem and like the way it turned out—and you wouldn’t mind sharing it publicly—drop it into the comments below. Or you could share it with me privately via email.
I’d love to see what you come up with.
As writers, we do the work of writing, but by experimenting with a creative writing exercise now and then, we can also play.
Ready to elevate your writing craft—with a coach to guide you?
Get the direction you need to improve as a writer with The Art & Craft of Writing.
Now enrolling cohorts that launch Jan 9, 2023.
In this eight-week intensive, I’ll help you elevate your writing skills and create a compelling piece you’ll be proud to show an editor or agent. By the end of our time together, you’ll have completed a 3,000-word piece, along with multiple short submissions that invite you to experiment and play with new techniques.
Footnote: Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. Pearson, 2015. Page 24.
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