Try This: Sweet Syntax

I love Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. The following is one of my favorite writing exercises from her book (my paraphrase):

1. Find three or four lines from your writing practice. The sentences do not have to be brilliant.
2. Copy those three or four lines at the top of a new page.
3. Picture each word as a wooden block. For a quarter or a third of the page, set one block next to another next to another. To keep yourself from the intrinsic impulse to make sense, try this: only glance at the top lines for your next word; be quick about it. Block block block. You will repeat the words from your three or four lines. Don’t worry about making it all come out even.
4. Now, this is the picky part. Add punctuation. Copy the block block block, adding punctuation to make visual sense.
5. Read aloud, with expression. Make auditory sense. Notice what role punctuation plays. Also note any fun phrases or images that inadvertently appeared.

Here’s mine:

I ran unplugged for only part of my run this morning, sometimes more distressed by what I may hear or what I may think – too distressed by what may come up to really want quiet.

unplugged part distressed what part I may quiet really want the by may hear or what what sometimes this for I the to by I more what distressed really up come hear think ran unplugged part this run may by I the think more what for I only this think what morning to think run part only unplugged up to run sometimes the distressed quiet may for may what hear may the want ran part by more quiet really or sometimes I only or may really

Whoa. If that doesn’t rattle your teeth.

Unplugged, part distressed, what part I? May quiet: really want by may hear or. What! What sometimes this for I the to? By I more what distressed really up come hear think; ran unplugged part this.Run may by I the think more what for I only! This think what morning to think run part only. Unplugged up to. Run sometimes the distressed quiet may – for may what hear? May the want ran part? By more quiet. Really or sometimes, I only or may really.

Language is less intimidating if we take time to play with it. Mess around with syntax. No one has to know but you.

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