Neat Newsletter

Latest news and information straight to your inbox.
No need to visit the site and search through recent posts.
Easy opt-out at any time.


Free Service

Free help for anyone
interested in improving their
Journaling for Creativity.

Journaling word game: Forming recurrence in sentences

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Journaling for Creativity and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.

Introduction Contents Techniques About Method Games for Creative Development Forming Recurrence in Sentences



The gameJournaling for creativity: Games: Recurrence

“Recurrence” is a quick game of creating sentences that contain some form of recurring sound, structure or emotion; a game that is best played in your creative journal when you have five minutes to spare.


About recurrence

Recurrence is often used as a blunt instrument in speeches to impart strong emotions, and this is where we are most likely to recognise it.

Two very well known examples are;

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address,

“…of the people, by the people, for the people…

Winston Churchill’s 1940 parliamentary address

“…we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender…”

However, it can also be used with far more delicacy. In writing, we can use the sound of words, text forms or emotions to subtly emphasise a passage without the reader being slapped by an obvious construction. Doing so can transform prose into far more effective sentences. In Gabriele Lusser Rico’s words;

“Learning to use recurrences – the meaningful repetition of words, images, ideas, phrases, sounds, objects, or actions throughout a piece of writing to unify and empower it – constitutes the third basic step in achieving natural writing.”

Gabriele Lusser Rico, "Writing the Natural Way"


How to play

Select a subject and write it down in the centre of your page. Think about it for a short while. As you do so, write down any associated words that come to mind in a cluster map around the original word or sentence. (Click here for a brief introduction on forming cluster maps.)

As always, if halfway through forming the cluster map you get an urge to start again or “re-jig it”, listen to that urge and follow it.

When the ideas dry up, read each word in turn and circle any that seem significant.

Finally, under the cluster diagram use what you have produced to write a short passage or poem that is intensified by including recurrent words, phrases, forms or emotions.

For example:

Simple recurrence

The storm, the black, dark, ominous storm crept ever closer, ever nearer.”

Recurrent form

“The car is dead” he said, “It won’t start” he said, “I tried everything” he said, “Oh shit!” I said.

Recurrent emotion

“I was glad of the news, it cheered my day, it was a happy turn of events that left me elated.”


The purpose of the game

Playing with recurrence develops your ability to form sentences containing recurrence and, equally important, the ability to recognise them in the work of others.

Forming simple word or phrase recurrences exercises mainly the logical-mind, whilst forming a recurrence that involves forms or emotions engages both the logical and creative mind, and by exercising them together, develops creativity.

The initial focusing of your concentration through the visual medium of a cluster map ensures that the creative-mind, via the visual cortex, is included in the game from the start and further enhances development of cooperation between the two modes of thinking.

There are further forms of recurrence that may be used to enhance the impact of your writing. These include; circular, images and ideas. If you would like to explore this topic further, I recommend reading "Writing the Natural Way", by Gabriele Lusser Rico. (Disclosure statement; this is an affiliate link.)


Now it is your turn. Pick up your journal and spend five minutes describing something whilst incorporating a recurrence in the description. If you are short on ideas, here are a few to get you started;

Bouncing ball

Melting ice-cream

A dead…(something)

A wedding dress

Rain on a roof



We would be interested in your thoughts and findings on this game. Are you aware of other powerful examples that you can share with us? Please leave any thoughts or examples in the comments area below.

Photo credit: Framed, by d_pham.

"Journaling word game: Forming recurrence in sentences" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Share Button

Comments are closed.