Write for You: Collect Ten Words

by Nancy Casey

When we say the word “writing” it usually conjures up an image of sentences and paragraphs. A writer lays down the wall of words one by one and the reader takes them in the same way.  The words combine to form thoughts.  The thoughts and ideas relate to one another.  The writing “says something.”

Your writing practice does not require that kind of writing.  You can fill up pages any way that is pleasing to you.  For instance, you can simply collect words without giving yourself the task of making them all go together and “mean” something.  Give that a try today.

Begin with your usual beginning.  Gather your materials. Get yourself seated comfortably. Limber up your hands, arms and upper body.  Rotate your head and torso gently a few times, as if you were looking behind you to the left and the right.

Draw a big ‘X’ on the paper that divides the page into four more-or-less equal parts.  Collect ten words and write them down in one of the sections.

How do you collect words?  The best place to look for them is in your own writing.  Simply wander through the pages and when you find a good word, write it down in the empty space.

You can also collect words from other people’s writing, such as books, newspapers, emails or Facebook posts.  Or you can quiet your mind and wait for individual words to bubble up and collect them that way.

What makes a good word? You like it for some reason.

Here are some of the reasons you might like it:

  • You are surprised to see it.
  • It’s important to you and you think about it a lot.
  • It has a funny or interesting sound.
  • You can spell it, but you aren’t sure how to say it.
  • You can say it, but aren’t sure how to spell it.
  • You keep hearing that word over and over again.
  • The word reminds you of a certain place, time, or person.

Do this three times so that you have three collections of ten words each on the page.  To fill the fourth space, make a “best-of” collection by choosing a few favorite words from the ones you have already collected. (Your page might look something like this.)  Think up a title for each of the four collections, as well as for the whole page.  Put the date on the page also.

As you move about in your weekly travels, continue to collect words.  You can always find them in your writing or somebody else’s, but you don’t have to limit yourself to what’s already written.  Save up a word from something unusual you see.  Save a word for something so boring you are surprised you noticed it.  Save a word you hear.  Save a word you dream.  Just words.  Collect them.  Ten at a time.

When you are out in the world, write down the words you collect on an imaginary page in your mind.  Review them now and again to keep them from erasing themselves.  Can you remember ten words at a time and write them down later?

Nancy Casey is a writer and teacher who has lived in rural Latah County for many years.  You can see more of her work here.  Beginning April 5, she will be teaching these writing classes at the Recovery:

  • Get it Written. Bring something you have to write.  Homework, an application, a letter, a report, etc.  Get help if you need it. Get it done.  Thursdays 11-12 and 6-7
  • Write For You. Do writing exercises like this one in a group with other people.  Thursdays 3-4.


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