Choose a word, any word – APPLE for instance – and as quickly as you can, write down five words for each letter in the word.
A – aggregate, agile, agony, actor, Augustine
P – pomegranate, poo-poo-pee-doo, pompadour, prickly, pop
And so forth. Then do it again. Same word, only this time list verbs. You can do this with any sort of limitation – just nouns, just verbs – whatever strikes you. I try to include verbs every time. Verbs make interesting things happen.
After you have made a couple of lists, go through – very quickly - and circle one word in each line that really zings you. Make a list of these words – keeping them in the same order. Write a paragraph, using the words in order, tweaking the tense if necessary.
Here is a recent free write that sprang from this exercise. My words were: Agile, poo-poo-pee-doo, Persian, lick, everlasting, assuage, pare, pricked, larder, etched.
The agile pubescents pull a succession of blouses on and off, waiting for perfection. When it struck – it was poo-poo-pee-doo, three girls in a row, as satisfied as Persian cats. They all but licked themselves, reveling in their tightly held belief in their own everlasting youth. Never, yet, had they known the aged feelings that flag, requiring assuaging. After the lovely parade, they stopped to pare themselves down to barely lingerie. The entire department was pricked up and alive, waiting to see what the lovelies would do next. Shockingly, they headed straight for the larder, to gobble down sausages and brined pickles. Still, the image of their morning stretch was etched into our eternity.
OK So, most of the stuff in free writes is pure crap, but still – there are things happening here. For instance, this line “They all but licked themselves.” That’s interesting. Might see that in a poem of mine some day. Even if nothing particularly usable pops up, free writing gets the writing bones lubed up and ready to go.