I’m starting this with an apology, because I can’t trace the creator of the exercise I’m leading up to.
I don’t remember where I first came across this piece of word play. I do know it’s been around a long time. I’ve old books of ‘parlour games’ that do something similar, so perhaps the author was the wonderfully talented Anon. I’ve tried looking it up, but that’s not easy without knowing the correct title. So, should anyone know the origins of this, I’d be grateful if you’d tell me.
This is really an exercise that allows us to be absurd. In case you’re wondering why you would want to, let me ask, why wouldn’t you? At its purest, nonsense literature covers a great raft of wonderful imaginings, in poetry and prose.
You may not want to write of owls and pussycats, or even a Jabberwocky or a disappearing Cheshire cat. That’s fine, no reason why you should. But don’t pass by this exercise because of that. Being able to let go of rational and logical reasoning does not have to be just about the sense of ridiculous.
Exercises like this one help us to free our imaginations. Like Freewriting, the purpose of this is to block off that annoying inner critic we all have. Here you are not just allowed to write nonsense, you are almost obliged to. Adults often need to be reminded how to be playful, especially with words. This is another way of practicing that.
There is only one big rule here: No dictionaries. That would definitely be cheating.
Write your name, then start to write about yourself using ONLY words that begin with the same initial letter. You may aim for some form of sense, but obviously that’s going to take some ingenuity, and lateral thinking, and it’s much easier, and playful, to allow the words to take-over and lead you.
Here’s my attempt:
Cath can’t count competently. Cringes concerning cubes. Creatively challenged, Cath calls cute canine companion. Cooperatively contemplating clouds causes calm creativity. Circling charming countryside can counteract craziness: certainly challenges concerns. Change corners constantly. Cooky claims, continuously cooling cures cheese. Codswallop! Canned corn concerns con-captain creating caption concerning cash. Can’t continue containing corn. Could con-captain can cabbage, cubed? Credit card claimants call competent cats. Cool cats corner crazy con-captain, controlling control cars. Crushed customers claim considerable cash. Council catch crook, charge certain callers copiously. Cuffs count collars, claim cheese. Cool cats can consume cheese.
As you can see, there’s only a nod towards sense here. You may be able to achieve something more coherent. The thing is, you don’t have to.
What you will do, though, is stretch your vocabulary, both for words and for meaning. Hopefully, what you will find is that while you may start out slowly, every so often the words will flow. They may not make much sense, but try to let go of your need for rational and logical, and allow your pen to lead you.
Look instead at how wide your vocabulary really is. Because if you can do this for one paragraph, using just one letter of the alphabet, just think how many words you must have tucked away in your personal lexicon, just waiting for a chance to be applied to your writing.