11 June 2012

craft tip monday 6/11: into the “jungle”--word play (part ii)

Welcome back to our month-long journey into the "lost jungle" of writing! Last Monday, you were invited into the landscape of this jungle, where we seek to “wander into the territory of … writing freedom.” This week, we take our first tentative steps onto the path toward giving writing back its free-spirited voice by returning to a subject that has always been near and dear to me: word play.

Entering the Lost Jungle: "Plow the Garden" Through Word Play

“what’s in a word?”

We first started on the journey toward word play at the end of April, when I shared the “rainbow poem” form with you. The main concept behind the idea of word play is intrinsically linked to the concept of the lost jungle: both are attempts to let words take over and play and breathe on their own. As discussed back in April, word play seeks to let “the words guide us instead of us guiding the words.”

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is trying to come up with the right word. How should I describe the color of the sun? What kind of shirt or skirt is my main character wearing? Yes, this person’s actions filled me with rage, but how to describe that peculiar feeling I remember welling up in my stomach? There is often nothing more frustrating than reaching into our mental word banks and coming up blank. It’s like having the name of a friend right on the tip of your tongue but completely and stubbornly unwilling to leap off!

“organic writing. the natural choice.”

When we play with words, instead of reaching for the “perfect” word, we let them flow organically. When I think of writing organically, my mind automatically goes to organic foods. One of the slogans for organic farming from the European Union’s European Commission was “Organic Farming. The Natural Choice.” One of the key messages for their, and many, organic food and farming campaigns is the idea that going organic is not only great for nature, but also fantastic for us.

The same easily applies to organic writing, and word play. When we play with words, and let them come and flow and grow organically, we take care of our natural reserves of creativity. Rather than trying to box our creativity into what we want it to be or do at a particular time, we open the pen doors and say, “Go on … do your work.” At the same time, organic writing is great for us as writers. We give up those frustrated “What’s the word?” moments and just go with the flow.

One good thing to keep in mind when it comes to word play, and any trip into the lost jungle of writing, is that you are not giving up total control of your writing. You are “going with the flow,” but you are also allowed to interpret the chop of the waters. You are wandering off the charted path, but that doesn’t mean you’re going blindly into the dark!

plow your word garden

Today’s writing prompt is fairly simple, but asks that you take your time. Create a word garden. Start flipping through your favorite books and magazines and collect your favorite words, whatever pops off the page at you. I just flipped to a random page of a book on my desk and found these words: cavity, spill, plumber, coins, sink, insurmountable, window, backing, board, fantasy, diagrams, razor, solipsist. As you jot down words (or type them into a word processing program), add words that come to you on their own. When I wrote coins, for instance, I also added: copper, silver, penny, shine, linger, cotton, moth. Try to collect at least 200 words before you even think of doing anything with them. Write or type each word onto slips of paper and store them in an envelope or jar. This is your word garden. Wait at least a few hours before taking on the next step (give your brain time to forget and go blank).

When you’re ready, go back to your word garden and pull 10 to 25 words. Write a poem or story/scene using all ten of those words.

For my attempt, my ten words were: spirit  swallow  hang  rind  pillow  halogen  brink  trouble  atlas calliope 

To the brink 

You are the spirit I swallow
when none of the other muses
hang around. I peel you
like the rind of a clementine,
I clutch you to my stomach,
tighter than my nighttime
pillow. You are sunlight,
halogen, crutching me
to the brink of the land
I know is trouble but cannot
escape the wander to—
you are atlas, spinster,
you are calliope to my bones.

Your Turn: Spend some time playing with your word garden and see where it takes you. Please come back when you've spent some time "tilling" your land and wandering your new path into the jungle to share what you discovered!


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And sign up for free email updates from this blog in the top right corner of the page.


Check out these related Craft Tip Monday posts on Our Lost Jungle:


  1. I love this! What an awesome excercise. Thanks

    1. Thanks, Dana! I've been making word gardens for a while now---it's always a nice way to get the brain working a little differently for different projects : -)

  2. Excellent prompt and I love that it's organic!

    1. Thanks, Juliet! They say going green is a lifestyle ... so why not live it in poetry, too : -)


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

Featured Post

Sankofa: The Power of Known History

I recently took on two challenges in the sphere of political and cultural advocacy: understanding the roots of our democracy and national l...