This is my favourite writing exercise. I learned it from my friend, the great poet Garry Gottfriedson, who in turn, learned it when he mentored under Allen Ginsberg. And once more, though I do not write poetry, I turn to the poets for their inspiration. This can work with short prose pieces as well as poems and is really good at getting you thinking outside of the box and into the heart of the subject:

Pick a topic. Now quick, write every word you can think of that has anything to do with the subject, every adjective, synonym, form and adverb. For example, if your subject is LOVE, then you’d start a list that included:

  • passion
  • caring
  • heart
  • marriage
  • caress
  • etc..etc . . . 

Now, all these words you have written out, they are off limits. You must write a poem or short piece about LOVE but without using any of the restricted words.