Nanowrimo Writing Session #3

It’s already our third session of writing together on our Nanowrimo projects. Our group of seven writers has combined for 94,709 words so far (as of immediately before our meeting)!

This week we’re going to spend a few minutes starting to create a personal universe deck to help spark us through our final weeks of the month and beyond. I’m pirating Jeff Vandermeer’s variation of an exercise often credited to Michael McClure in 1976. He’s got details on the website that accompanies his AMAZING Wonderbook. If you’re unfamiliar with it, spend the time to change that. We ‘re going to make a deck of 100 cards. Each will have 1 word on it. The 100 words you choose to put on these cards should be personalized and reflect some of your own unique personality and in doing that should have a unique power to spark your creativity. So choose well. Be as specific as possible with your words (oyster instead of seafood, for instance).

Here’s a list to guide your choices, taken directly from the site:

  • 12 words that you associate with each of the 5 senses. These do not have to be literal. If you associate the word pavement with smell, use it. If you associate hegemony with touch, no problem. What matters is that these are words you feel some personal connection to and some special association with.
  • 10 words of motion. Again, no need to be literal (or not to be). If gingham suggests motion to you, use it.
  • 5 abstractions. These should be words you can’t immediately taste, touch, smell, see, hear.
  • 5 words you hate.
  • 5 words you like the shape of.
  • 7 words from your past.
  • 3 words from your future.
  • 3 words that you have completely made up.
  • 2 names that have special meaning for you.

Here’s how I want you to do it:

  1. First thing when you sit to write for the next three days, free associate a list of 100 words. Then put that list away and don’t look at it. Start with the first word that comes to you and let your associative brain carry you away.
  2. After three days of this, sit down and look at your lists. Note any patterns.
  3. Begin to construct your personal universe deck. Choose the words to fill each category listed above.
  4. Write each of the 100 words onto a card.
  5. Use the deck to spark ideas for your writing. Choose four cards and use them to write a poem. Choose one card and include it in the scene you are currently writing.

Use playing cards, index cards, baseball cards, whatever you want to contain your words. Good luck!