This is the twenty-ninth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here.
To free-associate means to say the first thing that comes to mind when presented with a word, a phrase, or an object. Freud used this method to discover repressed material in his patients’ unconscious. In this week’s exercise, you’re going to use this technique to generate material. You won’t have an analyst to provide word after word for you, but it’s possible to free-associate a chain of words on your own. The aim is to dredge up surprising material in the connections (or lack of connection) between words and ideas.
1. Choose a phrase from the list below. These words come from a list of “Fashion Idioms and Vocabulary.” It seems random because it is. Alternately, you can choose another random phrase. Look around you for ideas. Don’t think too hard about it. It’s just a jumping-off point. Your thoughts will soon take a detour from this original word, so don’t worry about not wanting to write about the word’s subject.
a sense of style
strike a pose
dressed to kill
have an eye for fashion
dressed for the occasion
2. Write the phrase on the first line of your paper. Before you finish writing its last letter, let a new word pop into your mind, and write it next to the phrase. Repeat this process until you have a chain of words written as a paragraph.
3. Now explore the connections. Freewrite or list possible connections between some of the words.
4. If you have time, you can start a story/essay/poem that includes several of the words and their relationship.
How did you do? Did you some of your words and their connections at times make sense? Did your sequence of words bring up any surprising material?
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Inspired by: Smith, Michael C. and Suzanne Greenberg. “Free Association.” Everyday Creative Writing: Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink, 2nd ed. NCT Publishing Group, 2000, p. 11-12.