Writing exercise: Word Association.

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In my yoga/writing retreat I talk a lot about the importance of writing, without worrying about whether it is good or not.  This isn’t wisdom that I made up all on my own, of course, it’s come from the likes of writers such as Julia Cameron & Anne Lamott and Mark Twain and, perhaps, every other writer who gives advice about writing.

It’s Anne Lamott’s ‘Shitty first draft’ advice really.

But still, it’s not easy advice to heed.  So many nights I sit and agonize over the word I want to use or worse, I sit and scroll through facebook, waiting for inspiration to strike, not writing a lick of a word.

I’m currently working on an essay that’s pretty close to the bone, raw – not like anything I’ve put out before – and I’m feeling burdened by it.  So much so, I’m not actually writing much at all.  Thankfully I had written the bulk of it months back and a foundation was built but, if I am to use the analogy of a house…I’m painfully deliberating over the tiles for the bathroom.  Should I go classic, or trendy?

Nothing has really felt authentic in my voice and I suspect that’s because there is a transition going on with so much of my life.  From the content I am digesting, to the conversations I am having to the people and lifestyles that I have been witness to over the past few months, it feels like my life is turning another corner.

In my circle of friends, this isn’t uncommon.  We are seekers and creators and develop hives if life becomes too static, so there is often talk of movement and momentum and impermanence…..or that could just be the conversations I often have with myself.  I can’t always tell these days.

Either way, I’m here writing this post because there is one exercise I’ve been doing that has really helped over the past few weeks.  It doesn’t take a lot of time and it makes me feel like I’m doing something toward my goal that doesn’t include updating my status on my social media feeds.

It’s a word association of sorts and I think it is really helpful to expand your usage of words.

It’s as simple as this:

Open up an excel spreadsheet.

Write a word at the top of one of the columns and then……write 50 words that immediately come to mind.  They don’t have to be in direct association with the word you choose but, thinking of that word, what other words come up.  What feelings does the word bring up? Who do you associate with the word?  What color does it have?  What texture can you see?  What scene can you imagine?

Don’t get too specific, otherwise it will keep you locked in a pattern you created a long time ago – the point of this exercise is to get you out of using the same words and the same writing patterns.  It’s also a good mind distraction instead of procrastinating.

Last night, I wrote the word INNOCENCE

Below is just a few words I wrote underneath it.


See, nothing really mind boggling but now I just have a whole new way to use the word innocence, or people whose innocence I want to describe.

I keep this document on my desktop so that I can open it easily and use as a reference.

Give it a go.  It’s easy.



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