This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Different Type of Exercise

One of my goals that I made for 2011 was to take a creative writing class. I wanted to have that down by November, so I could participate in National Novel Writing Month. That obviously did not work out for me for 2011, so I'll try again in 2012.

I did look for classes. I was really looking for something, perhaps through the city programs, or some kind of evening course through the community college system. But I couldn't find anything.

Really. I. Did. Not. Find. One. Class.

These may be word of mouth things that are part of  smaller writing clubs, so hopefully, those of you reading this and live in the Raleigh area, may know of something that I can look into next year.

But even if there were something available, I doubt that I could have made the time. But it's nice to think it could have happened.

I recently started "Stumble Upon"ing stuff. Holy cow. That site (well, the app on the iPad/iPhone) is friggin' (a word I heard my trouble teen say in a sentence the other Wasn't that a shock to my ears.) incredible. I am addicted.

One of my interests I added was "writing". 

You know how those types of sites list out different things you would be interested in? But actually don't optimize to them? Well, surprise surprise. This one did and one of the things I stumbled upon was this site's Creativity Boost #3: Dictionary Excursion.

Essentially, the point is to find six words in your trusty old dictionary, following their directions. I used the one I had most of my life (I love words, hence, I love dictionaries). My dad brought me my old dictionary to me last year. Isn't it beautiful?

And a note about books vs. cloud-ware: while I love my Merriam Webster dictionary app, this book holds sentiment. The pages are folded from the pages I leafed through as a kid. I wrote this in the cover, when I first got it.

Some things just can't be saved into the cloud and bring so much emotion and memory to a person.  In 50 years, no one will remember the words I looked up in my dictionary app, but this book will still be around (hopefully), with my handwriting, and my own trail of words that I looked on when I was young.

Back to the exercise: The last word is randomly chosen by you (or me, depending on how you want to read this). My words were:

as though


Cambrian (Which I just realized that I don't even have in my story! I suck. It was in the original...oh well. Novice error.)

and ciré.

The challenge, besides writing a story with an obscure subject (for me) in 250 words or less, was putting the first three words in the opening paragraph. Once I did that, I couldn't figure out a better way to use them in a different sentence.

Of course, I about peed in my pants, I was so happy about challenging myself to this creativity exercise. And, OF COURSE, I haven't written anything but these blog posts (and documentation, emails, announcements, complaints, etc.) for the past X many years. Nothing relating to fiction.

To say the LEAST, I am rusty. I attempted this exercise in three forms written, and one form in my head. I bagged the initial story and re-purposed some of it - mainly the first paragraph (which is the hardest to form, based on this exercise), and created the final product. I was not happy with it as it's not what I had intended when I was excited about the exercise.

So I decided that I wouldn't give it a big reveal. The site actually wants writers to post their final story in the comments. Oh no way was I going to do that! I wasn't going to embarrass myself. This would be something that I could look back on and go "hey, it was the beginning of getting back into my creative's OK". Even though I would laugh at my "old" self's poor writing style.

But then I decided not to be a chicken shit and post it. I made up a whole new user name, so that I could be disguised. Then I posted it. And then I spent the rest of the evening, flushing in embarrassment and regret.

But now that morning has come and gone, I'm a bit over it. It's not great. But it's also not easy to fit the words I had into a story 250 words or less. And that was the challenge. I did it. Good or bad. I came up with a story, using these mainly obscure words, in a matter of an hour. And as a logophile, I learned some new, cool words. I also learned a lot about Cambrian names, as I originally decided to use a Welsh name in this...but I couldn't pull it all together and I just became a bit anal-retentive about it.

It's amazing how glued one gets to a name. I started with Nessa but the idea came to use a Welsh name. So I found a name that I misspelled: Annwyn. I found that to be too unrealistic but decided to shorten it to Wyn and then explain that Annwyn was the Welsh name for "beloved". It isn't. And it was Annwyl. And by the time I discovered this, I was set on Wyn. And that is why the first story was bagged, as the whole point was "in name only" (my subject being "nominal"). So, I hate the title. It should be "In Name Only".

One thing I would like to add, most of all, is that I was inspired by my crew at QRB Teen Writing Club. I know ElfArmyWrites would especially love this type of exercise, so I decided to 'come out of the closet' for her, for Danny, for Emily, and the rest of those wondrous creatures that never cease to amaze me...besides my daughters.

So here's what I came up with:
Sisters in Name Only
“Don’t you look lovely today?” Only Wyn could acidify a compliment as though I would believe her. Wyn: the epitome of beneficence.
I was in my favorite chambray button down with a pair of jeans. I loved how I looked up until I met up with Wyn. Wyn was in a white chiffon blouse that clung to her like ‘drapings’ on a Greek goddess. She wore a pair of black cire pants. All together, she looked like a fashionable business woman.
“Why thank you Wyn. As usual, you are overdressed.” We were going to the fucking movies. Who else would see her in the dark?
“Dress to impress! That’s what I always say. You never know who you might meet and first impressions mean everything.”  “To you” I thought to myself.
“I’d rather be comfortable, thank-you-very-much. And besides, who the fuck am I going to meet at a theater?”
“No one that’s going to be impressed, that’s for sure.”
“Whatever.” I noticed Wyn rolling her eyes at that. God she annoys me. How did we even come from the same womb? I swear, one of us was switched at birth and ended up in the wrong family.
And yet, I oblige my sister and accompany her to the movies.
And what do you know? She actually meets someone that’s impressed with her. Some dimwit beefcake that was in the popcorn line, leaving me to sit alone, at this stupid ass movie that I didn’t even want to see.


  1. Oh my word! I LOVE IT! :) Keep writing; anything and everything. I would buy everything you ever produced :)

  2. Awwww...Do you know how much I love you Lindsay? You have made my life ! Thank you. That means more to me than you know. I shall tuck away that video of you with the lap dance now. :)

  3. That sounds like it would be a really interesting writing exercise to try - I've been writing a lot of short pieces for my novel based on one word prompts, but I have yet to do anything like this. I'll definitely give it a try after November ends.
    I really like the piece that you wrote. You used the words that you had rather well, and none of the placement seems terribly forced, it all fits, which couldn't have been easy to write. You give the reader a good glimpse at the character of the MC, her voice, and her relationship with her sister in this piece. The ending was also very good, that last word fit really well with the tone you set in the story. Thanks for sharing it, I enjoyed reading it.
    Also - awesome dictionary.
    - E.

  4. Thank you E. I think what I liked most about this exercise are the boundaries it set. I need those. I saw some of the one word prompts and I will try that but I think I need a few more of these to get me out of my writing-shell. I'm certainly not ready for novel writing. Not sure I want to do that. For me, for now, I just want to write and see what comes out of me. Hope to see you Wednesday!