Last week, at one of the writers’ groups I go to, we tried the Three Word Challenge. Pick any three words, and then everyone has to write something incorporating those words into their work in some way. It was a timed event and we gave ourselves 20 minutes.
We meet in a library, so choosing words wasn’t difficult. Three members dashed off to pick a book at random from the library’s shelves, and from there were chose page number 70, line 7, and word 7 on that line. (I don’t why we picked this numbers - they were just the first numbers that came into someone’s head!)
Our words were:
Immediately we had to introduce a new rule: Reggie’s been fishing was not acceptable as a piece of writing. We had to do more than that. (We we did have 20 minutes.) And then we set to it.
As a writing challenge it worked. We all wrote something. And as we went round the table, reading out our work, it was interesting to listen to the different ideas that we’d all had.
We didn’t critique each other’s work, as such. Work like this is first draft stuff, and reading out that “shitty first draft” as Anne Lamott calls it is embarrassing, because it’s full of mistakes, grammatical faux pas, repetitions and verbal stumblings as we try to read our own handwriting. The point of the exercise is to get us writing. Anything. Something. What we were then able to do was talk about how these ideas could be developed further. Many were potential short stories.
So, if you find yourself stuck and unable to write give the Three Word Challenge a try. Either pick three random words from one book, or one random word from three different books, and then set to it. Give yourself a time limit. We all need a deadline. It focusses the mind. And just see where those words take you. You might surprise yourself.