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Sep 08

Loved Moment Talked Some to Eyes!


Hand and Nib Pen Stock 2 by austringer on deviantART
 

Try this writing exercise with me, from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

Take one of your most boring pieces of writing. Choose three or four consecutive sentences and write them at the top of the page.

“You would think they would hesitate to talk to him, to feel some embarrassment or reserve, but you’d be wrong. They loved to talk, especially when it meant rehashing their crimes. You could see the lust in their eyes when they talked, reliving the moment.”

Now, see those words simply as wooden blocks, equal in size, shape, and color. They are not nouns or verbs or adverbs. Everything is equal. Next, for about a third of a page, scramble the words as if you were moving blocks around. Do not try to force the words to make sense. Your mind might fight with you and try to ascribe meaning; don’t allow it. Repeat some words to fill a third of the paper.

“Loved moment talk some to eyes when moment reliving you think some wrong embarrassment loved they especially hesitate they think would to but lust eyes the especially rehashing talk crimes could you reliving think you they to feel reserve or you’d loved talk be see could you the would meant talk rehashing lust when moment especially hesitate to loved they you wrong be would embarrassment when reliving talked think you him to could the especially hesitate feel moment talk loved especially rehashing think crimes hesitate to feel to some reserve you’d wrong see lust to when they think crimes meant feel they moment reliving think would talk some reserve or think hesitate to meant lust the to talk hesitate you lust eyes could embarrassment loved or reserve it when to think wrong be reliving especially eyes talked moment to it their feel him think see in loved their.”

Now, arbitrarily add punctuation. Throw in a few periods, a question mark, some commas, and exclamation marks. Remember, don’t try to make sense. Don’t think about it; just have fun.

“Loved moment talk some to eyes! When moment reliving you think some wrong, embarrassment loved they especially hesitate they think. Would to but lust eyes the especially? Rehashing talk crimes could you reliving think you they to feel; reserve or you’d loved talk? Be see could you the would meant talk rehashing, lust when moment especially hesitate to. Loved they you wrong be would embarrassment, when reliving talked think; you him to could the especially hesitate! Feel moment talk loved especially rehashing think. Crimes hesitate to feel to some reserve you’d, wrong see lust to? When they think crimes meant feel they, moment reliving think would talk some reserve. Or think hesitate to meant lust the to talk, hesitate you lust eyes could embarrassment. Loved or reserve it when to think, wrong be reliving especially eyes, talked moment to it their feel him — think see in loved their.”

Finally, read the passage out loud as if it had meaning. Use appropriate voice inflection. Infuse it with emotion — anger, humor, sadness, exuberance. Really get into it.

Do you see what we’ve done? The English language is locked in subject/verb/direct-object syntax. We have a subject acting on a verb. “I see the cat.” With this sentence structure, the “I” is the center of the universe. We forget that while “I” sees the cat, the cat likewise may be looking at “I” — or he might be stalking a mouse, or ignoring the world around him completely.

By cracking open the syntax, Goldberg says, we release energy and are able to see the world from different angles, in a new way. We recognize that other living beings matter on the earth. Our writing starts to reflect that wider connection to the world.

Have you tried thee xercise? Share your favorite “sentence” in the comments below.

Share your thoughts.

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