The Limits of Language: Writing Exercises to Help You Explore What’s Possible

Updated on March 27, 2018
Source

I’m an irrefutably stubborn individual. If something is supposedly impossible, I won’t automatically assume it is. I cannot imagine how many times I’ve exasperated my parents by insisting I would make the supposed impossible a reality. Failure often occurred. Nevertheless, my well-established tenacity is enormously helpful in my writing efforts.

The follow writing exercises are intended to stretch (or entirely sidestep) your rational mind. They are supposed to knock on the door of nonsensicality. Consider yourself privileged if this door opens. If you wish to write innovative prose and verse, it’s helpful to loosen up your mind concerning what is and is not possible on the page. Limbering up may enable you to “go the distance” in future pieces. Learning to scurry past your internal censor is priceless. Even if you eventually delete a few of your innovative phrases, merely writing them is a radical and victorious act.

Exercise One

This is what I call “phrases of interest mashup.” It was inspired by the musicians on YouTube who expertly combine songs.

Here are the twelve phrases of interest I’ll consider using:

  1. “surrender to the extremes”
  2. “my quibbles notwithstanding”
  3. “uprooting my assumptions”
  4. “if, and only if”
  5. “exploring the particulars of my aversion”
  6. “you just say that because you love me”
  7. “into the gloomy abyss”
  8. “everything I never told you”
  9. “weirdly impactful”
  10. “fragile quiet and calm”
  11. “emotional truthfulness”
  12. “in the company of those exiled”

One Example of a Song Mashup

Here are the three guidelines:

  1. Do not combine more than four phrases at once.
  2. Try to make the results whimsical and outlandish.
  3. You can use only one part of a phrase.

A few examples:

  • “Surrender to the extremes if, and only if into the gloomy emotional truthfulness.”
  • “Uprooting everything I never told you because you love my quibbles.”
  • “Assumptions aversion gloomy abyss fragile quiet.”

Exercise Two

Take a commonplace expression, such as “my Tuesday to-do list” and add the weirdest adjectives you can. These adjectives can be placed either before or after this expression.

A few examples:

  • “Buying snakes and spiders is not on my Tuesday to-do list.”
  • “Batman ate my Tuesday to-do list.”
  • “My Tuesday to-do list is a unicorn in disguise.”
  • “My Tuesday to-do list has vanished in a puff of purple smoke.”
  • “Martha Stewart doesn’t like my Tuesday to-do list.”

Exercise Three

The purpose of this exercise is to affix unexpected adjectives to common objects.

Our five objects are:

  1. baseball bat
  2. eyeglasses
  3. 1988 Honda Civic
  4. bell bottoms
  5. Taylor Swift album

I won’t provide any adjectives. You can supply the ones which appeal to you.

A few examples:

  • Mister Roger’s tattered baseball bat
  • Smart-aleck eyeglasses
  • Futuristic and fantastic 1988 Honda Civic
  • Finnish (and finicky) bell bottoms
  • Existentially philosophical and paranoid Taylor Swift album

Exercise Four

It’s time to rewrite overused expressions. Instead of calling a power-hungry person a “force of nature,” for example, you could call them “a hurricane with nowhere to go and time to spare.” A person you may have described as “shy and retiring” could be likened to “a drab painting which couldn’t command the attention of the most bored person alive.” Even if you never use these expressions in a story or essay or poem, learning to avoid clichés is invaluable. Determine which expressions you frequently use. Once you do, rewrite them. One of my favorites is “Something is better than nothing.” This could become “A tenuous offering is not without consequence.” A second favorite of mine is “Insofar as I know”; this could be rewritten as “My ignorance could fill a library.”

How Would You Describe This Office?

Source

Exercise 5

Ponder how you can describe a familiar object, person, or place in an unusual way. You must first establish what to focus on. I could, for example, consider my office. Usually I describe it as “artsy” and “colorful” and “full of personality.” Alternative descriptions could include “overrun with indecision” and “untidy and distracting” and “hostile to all literary endeavors.” These are, I realize, fairly negative descriptions. I could also describe my office more optimistically as a “den of innovation” and “whimsicality central.” Presuming you attempt to view something well-known with fresh eyes, I think it matters less how negative or positive your descriptions are.

Daniel Radcliffe: The Actor Who Plays Harry Potter in All the Movies

Source

Exercise Six

Think about one of your favorite fictional characters. This could be someone from a book, movie, or television series. Once you’ve selected this character, select adjectives which do not describe him or her. If, for instance, I selected Harry Potter, here are a few potential adjectives which do not describe him: pretentious, humorless, cowardly, unintelligent, and slovenly.

I hope these exercises have inspired you to explore the limits of language. This isn’t a comprehensive listing. Surely there are dozens (or more) exercises I’ve failed to mention. Such may, in fact, be found in another article on this website. Best of luck in your future wordsmithing attempts.

How often do you do writing exercises?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      5 months ago

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I agree about the usefulness of unusual writing exercises. Last night I did one in which I wrote "Two plus two equals" and then supplied nonsensical answers such as "a bag of sardines." It was great fun.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 months ago from the short journey

      Writing exercises are so useful. How true that something is better than nothing, but the more unusual the exercises are the better. Something may then prove to be more than we can imagine before we begin.

    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      18 months ago

      Dear ThreeKeys,

      Thank you for commenting. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the article. I'm with you: J.K. Rowling is inspiring. Her comments about failure have helped me enormously. I also like this quote of hers: "Anything is possible if you've got enough nerve."

      Take care,

      Julie

    • profile image

      threekeys 

      18 months ago

      Loved loved loved this wordsmith article. Lots of fun ideas. Love trying to see and do from different angles. Write some more like this. Thanks Julie. JK Rowling is inspirational, isn't she?

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hobbylark.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hobbylark.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)