Winter Writing Assignment 3
“As I started to write myself, I began to read stories differently, harder. Margins were marked with comments, and memorable passages were underlined, then copied down. I wanted to sense what it must have been like to write these words for the first time, so I would type them hesitantly, pretending that they had just come to me. Once, before leaving on vacation, I copied an entire page from an Alice Munro story and left it in my typewriter, hoping a burglar might come upon it and mistake her words for my own.”
— David Sedaris
Find a book or a short story that you truly adore. Read it. Select a scene from the book that you wish you could have written. Something that feels impossibly beautiful, or funny, or true. Copy the passage in your own notebook, word for word, in your own handwriting. Write it slowly. Pretend that the syntax and the language is your own. When you have finished, repeat the exercise: copy it out a second time, in your notebook. Write the words carefully, so it feels almost as if the style is moving through you. When you’ve copied it twice in your own hand, start writing a third passage in your notebook. This time, change the nouns and verbs and adverbs, but keep the syntax and structure of each sentence. Fill the sentences with your own words. The content you choose is not important – just make it up as you go along. It will likely feel very silly and nonsensical. Do not think about it too much. Pretend you’re playing a game of Mad Libs, and you’re just filling in the blanks. When you have finished, read your passage out loud, and listen to the rhythm of the sentences, now propelled by your own words. Let this sink in – don’t rush it. Hang out there, in that feeling.