Writing as Craft
Just in case the muse isn’t sitting on your shoulder, whispering perfect prose, here is a great practice exercise to get your writing flowing. It has three steps: Copy, Closely Imitate, Freely Imitate. Using the prompts below, copy the prompt, then imitate it as closely as possible, then let loose and imitate it freely.
“Now! Now!” said the Queen. “Faster! Faster!” and they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.
“Write! Write!” shouted the instructor. “Faster! Faster!” And the class wrote so fast that it seemed like their pens had grown wings, scarcely touching the surface of the paper, till suddenly, just as Ralph was running out of ideas, the instructor shouted “Stop!” and he found himself slumped in this seat, drained but satisfied.
The ride started slowly, picking up speed as the cars revolved faster and faster, so that they found themselves pushed back against the cushions, as if they were being whirled at the end of a string, till finally, just as Susan was beginning to give in to the paranoia creeping over her, they slowed and stopped, and she found herself climbing out, her body moving stiffly while her mind continued to whirl at the end of the string.
Now pick one to copy, imitate closely and then freely.
- The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves. (William Hazlitt)
- Wars on nations change maps. Wars on poverty map changes. (Muhammad Ali)
- At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment. (Ben Franklin)
- A long, long, time ago, in another century – 1951, in fact – when you, dear younger readers, were most likely still in your nuclear-family playpen (Where, if female, you cuddled a rag-baby to your potential titties, or, if male, let down virile droll over your plastic bulldozer), the famous critic told me never, never to used a parenthesis in the very first sentence. (Cynthia Ozick)