Write for You: What It Isn’t

by Nancy Casey


Stop by the Recovery Center at 5pm on Thursdays this summer to check out what happens in the Write For You writing class. It’s free and open to anyone. We do exercises like the one below. People can experiment with different kinds of writing and see what works best for them.


Writers often focus intently on an object or an idea so that they can describe it exactly as they perceive it. Today you will do the opposite of that. Instead of training your awareness on what something is, you will let your mind relax and consider the infinite possibilities of what something isn’t.

This is a chance to let your imagination roam all over the place. It’s also an opportunity to outlandish or silly.

Begin with something that is right in front of you. Any old object will do: a plant, a table, a smudge on the wall. Anything. Imagine that you chose the smudge. Then you would begin…

The smudge on the wall is not…

After that, you are free to add just about anything else, as long as it doesn’t describe the smudge on the wall. Perhaps the smudge on the wall is not the remnant of a chocolate chip cookie. It isn’t the Milky Way Galaxy, either. It’s also unlikely to be anybody’s great-grandfather.

After you have written that much, expand it a bit. You can add because and explain why. You could add qualifications that begin with words like unless, until or except. You can start a new phrase with if, however, although, or when.

After you have written a couple of lines, pause and reread. What you have written can be said to have two “leaps” in it. The first leap says what the thing isn’t. The second leap is in the (possibly absurd) explanation that follows. Each leap is an opportunity to take a giant step in your imagination. Did you range far from your initial idea?

Pluck one word from what you just wrote, start a new line, and write down what the new thing isn’t. Add a bit of explanation just like you did the first time. Pause. Reread. Choose a word from the last part you wrote. Begin the next section by describing what that newest word isn’t.

Work you way down the page that way. Allow your mind to let go of the obligation to write “about” anything. Just wander and discover how many places your path will go. When you have finished, reread everything. You might discover that you wrote “about” something after all. Or maybe not.

Whatever your writing seems to be “about,” add some kind of illustration or decoration to the page and give it a title. Write the date on it as well.

Here is an example of what a person could write.

You can share what you have written by posting it as a comment below. To do that, you can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. Anyone can drop in for the Thursday writing class she teaches at the Recovery Center at 5:00. For more information about other opportunities for writers, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Community Center.

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