by Nancy Casey
In the world of English grammar, verbs are the words that describe action. Action is everywhere. Every living thing is doing something all the time, and so are non-living things, even if we don’t pay much attention.
In your writing today, you will be on the lookout for action and try to notice it in lots of different ways. When you do that, you are thinking up verbs.
Begin with a clean sheet of paper. Settle into a place with a lot of things in front of you. Maybe you’ll be looking out a window or across a room. You could be in a public place like a library or a park bench. You could be in your home. You can even be someplace where you are convinced nothing ever happens. (If you are sitting two feet away from a blank wall, maybe you will want to choose a different location.)
In your mind, start naming what’s in front of you. Write down a list of the names of the things (or people, or animals) that you see. Write the words in a column down the left-hand side of the page. Skip a line between each one. The words you write won’t be verbs. They are nouns, the names of things (or pets or people.)
Nouns come to life when you think up verbs to go along with them.
For each of the things (nouns) on your list, write a sentence that describes what it is doing.
For some things it will be easy—kids running, windshield wipers swishing, water boiling. For other things, you have to wake up your creativity and see the world from their point of view.
Often your first thought will be that an object is not doing anything, but even lying there doing nothing is doing something! Things that don’t appear to be doing much could be waiting or remembering. Dust covers a table. Grass can push up towards the sky or uncrumple itself after being walked on. The air fills up with moisture when it’s humid and sucks the moisture from your skin when it’s dry. The trick is to turn your mind sideways and try to see the world from the point of view of the thing you are looking at.
As you go down your list of nouns, if you have trouble noticing what something is doing and don’t know what to write, just skip it and go on to the next one. By the time you get back to it later, you will probably have an idea that you can use. Try not to use any verbs more than once.
By the time you have filled the page, you will have demonstrated to yourself that even a quiet room can be a busy, active place!
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Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. She offers (free!) writing help to anyone in recovery. This can be for any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email email@example.com for more information.