I do this:
I don’t quite remember where I picked this technique up from, but I’ve definitely been doing it since my very early twenties. It’s for times when I want to write or think I ought to write, but have no inspiration whatsoever. I’ve also used it as a game to play with friends. Exchanging our word lists and writing poems together. It helps to pass the time on long bus rides and can be quite fun otherwise too.
On the first column you write nouns, trying to empty your head and write down whatever comes up. You must also strive to forget what you just wrote down. That’s key. Then you cover this column with your hand and write verbs in the next one and complements in the third. The less you remember what went in the preceding column, the better it is.
Sometimes it gives me a good line to work with. Sometimes a whole set of lines. Sometimes I have a specific mood/theme I want to do and then I try to keep my words vaguely to that theme, while still emptying my head as much as I can.
Today’s word list didn’t turn out good at all. It felt like there isn’t a workable line in there and certainly no concept I could tie together. The things circled are circled for other reasons (Freudian analysis of repetetiveness for the why not of it).
But then that “Morning closes in a whisper” line didn’t seem so bad, and voila, it gave me what I had wanted and I set to work. I also ended up using it as a word bank. Otherwise “dammit”, “last bus” and “trees” might not have ended up in the poem.
I like this poem so far too. I’m not sure I will like it tomorrow, or next week, but I like the premise and promise of it this moment. And the new kind of tenderness I write with. That I didn’t have before.
I dare to write beautiful things now without flights of whimsy. Pat pat for me.