Stuck for ideas?

When I began my writing course last year, my biggest concern was not whether I could write, but whether I had enough, if any, good ideas to write about.  I was sure I couldn’t be the only one, in fact, my lecturers must’ve been pretty sure too, because they introduced us to an exceptionally helpful book which now holds a prime position on my writing desk.  The Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith provides experimental and practical strategies and approaches to creative writing.  First of all, this is not a ‘how to’ book on writing.  As we all know by now, there is no single, correct way to write and everyone is different. Rather, it is a practical guide to experimenting with words, language and ideas.  From this book I learnt that we have infinite reserves of resource material for writing, we sometimes just need help tracking them down!

The most helpful section in the book for me has been Playing With Language.  As far as I know, we speak about 20,000 words a day, so surely we can string a few of those together to make something special, right? An example of a word exercise in the book is Phrase Permutation, where “the position of the words in relation to each other is changed within the phrase or short sentence, usually radically transforming the sense.”

the death of the author
the author of death

An excellent example of phrase permutation is shown by Australian poet Myron Lysenko.  I think this word play is amazing.


They stood
under the big tree
and talked slowly

Under the tree
they stood
and slowly talked big

The big tree
stood slowly
and under they talked

They stood big
and slowly talked
the tree under

The big tree talked
and they slowly

Another fun exercise was the Word Pool, where you “create a pool of words and then combine the words into unusual and striking combinations.”  The example in the book had the following words in the word pool:


Then, the words are combined to make unusual, evocative or striking combinations, the idea being to think outside the box.  The combinations given from this word pool included “time squats”, “sense wails” and “words fidget”.  It is anticipated with this exercise, that the combinations might lead you to an idea, theme or title of writing.

This book has loads of exercises like this, to get you creating things out of nothing.  I like it because it’s engaging and practical…there’s no nonsense about 10 step plans to writing a novel or any garbage like that.  It’s simple, creative exercises, generic enough to apply to any writing form, but specific enough in its execution to get some solid results.

You can check out more about it at The Writing Experiment.

~storytelling nomad~

4 comments on “Stuck for ideas?

  1. Pingback: Bones of the wicked « storytelling nomad

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