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Journaling for Creativity.

Journaling word games: Tension in word pairs

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 Tension in Word Pairs


The game

Journaling for Creativity: Word game: Tension in word pairs This week’s word game has been taken from “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabriele Lusser Rico. The game explores tension between similar word pairs and is an ideal game for a fifteen minute break in your day.

How to play

First decide on a similar word pair that is to be the subject of your game.

For example, in the exercise below we have used ‘Hear and Listen’.

Other pairs of words suggested by Gabriele are;

Touch and Feel

Taste and Savour

Look and See

Desire and Lust

Smell and Inhale

Cry and Weep

Alternatively, use any other similar word pair you fancy.

Neat tip: The synonym finder built into your word processor is brilliant at generating similar word pairs.


Now turn to a clean page in your creativity journal. We will be using the top half of the page for a small cluster diagram based on your chosen word pair and in the bottom half we will be writing a vignette using words from the cluster diagram.

Write and circle your chosen word pair in the centre of the top half and then create a cluster diagram around it (Click here for more information on clustering). Expect to generate around a dozen new words. There is no right amount for this, but if you find yourself producing lots of words, then you might be moving away from the chosen word pair and may need to refocus on the initial word pair or select a new word pair.

An example cluster for “Hear and Listen”:

Cluster diagram for "Hear and Listen"

As always with clustering, if you become unhappy with your focus, don’t be afraid to start again with a new word choice.

"But as clustering engages the Design mind and blocks the input of the literal, conventional Sign mind, we become aware of subtle shades and nuances of these words and a tension is created between them. The resonance set up by these two closely related words has a peculiar generative power. Were you to cluster each word singly, there would be no tension, but when the Design mind processes them in relationship to one another, you go beyond the given and discover unexpected perceptions."
[Design mind and Sign mind are Gabriele’s terms for Creative-mind and Logical-mind]

Gabriele Lusser Rico, "Writing the Natural Way"


Finally, study the cluster diagram you have created. Circle any words or groups of words that have more significance. As you cluster, or as you study your results, you will have a desire to construct something from the diagram. Gabriele calls this a “trial web shift”, and it is your cue to start writing a vignette in the bottom half of the page.

An example vignette for “Hear and Listen”;

Frozen communication. They sat side by side, separated by a gulf of assumption; neither paying attention to the other’s attempts at explanation. Simple truths discounted by assumptions of self-interest. Neither here nor heard, neither hearing nor heeding.


Once you have finished, read it out aloud to yourself, whilst playing with the sound of the words, the cadence and tempo. Afterwards, you may like to make a few changes, either to the diagram or the prose. Maybe slip in a stronger word or hide a weak association.

After you have finished, if you gained a new insight or noticed a friction between the two words, then use the remainder of your page to journal about your discoveries.



The purpose of the game

This game is mainly a word game, one to be played for amusement and greater understanding of the words you choose for your writing.

However, the creative mind is stimulated by forming the cluster diagram and by hearing the cadences used in the vignette. All of which increases communication between your logical and creative minds. This increased activity allows you to discover further associations between the two words, extra subtleties, additional meanings, more colour, and deeper emotions. This builds the ability to examine and consider your choice of words in terms of wider associations, which will help your writing in the future.



Do you have any ideas for good similar word pairs for this game? If you do, please leave them in the comments area below for everyone to enjoy.

Photo credit: Untitled, by Friendsof Europe.

"Journaling word games: Tension in word pairs" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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