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17.4 The Dwayne Johnson Activity

This exercise will encourage you to flex your creative descriptor muscles by generating unanticipated language.

Begin by finding a mundane object. (A plain, unspectacular rock is my go-to choice.) Divide blank piece of paper into four quadrants. Set a timer for two minutes; in this time, write as many describing words as possible in the first quadrant. You may use a bulleted list. Full sentences are not required.

Now, cross out your first quadrant. In the second quadrant, take five minutes to write as many new describing words as possible without repeating anything from your first quadrant. If you’re struggling, try to use imagery and/or figurative language.

For the third quadrant, set the timer for two minutes. Write as many uses as possible for your object.

Before starting the fourth quadrant, cross out the uses you came up with for the previous step. Over the next five minutes, come up with as many new uses as you can.

After this generative process, identify your three favorite items from the sections you didn’t cross out. Spend ten minutes writing in any genre or form you like—a story, a poem, a song, a letter, anything—on any topic you like. Your writing doesn’t have to be about the object you chose, but try to incorporate your chosen descriptors or uses in some way.

Share your writing with a friend or peer, and debrief about the exercise. What surprises did this process yield? What does it teach us about innovative language use?

Remember: Writing invites discovery:  the more you look the more you see! Objects aren’t boring. The ordinary can be described creatively and dramatically for a purpose. Suspend judgment:  Your first idea may not be your best.


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Expression and Inquiry by Christopher Manning; Sally Pierce; and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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