Today’s writing exercise comes from Charles Johnson, a National Book Award winner, and author of the novel Middle Passage, the short story collection The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and the graphic novel Shall I Rise–just to name a few publications from his almost fifty years of writing and scholarship. He was the director of the Writing Department at the University of Washington, where he taught fiction, and now leads a life dedicated to Philosophy, Martial Arts, and Family. He is foremost a Man of the Arts. And he wrote the book I am currently enjoying, titled The Way of the Writer. So far it’s about his life as a writer, with a central focus on being a writer /slash/ becoming a writer. In his chapter “A Boot Camp for Creative Writing,” Johnson explains how he fashioned, and continued to remodel, his semester-long writing course. What I dig the most about his course, and what makes me itch to one day take it (were I to…), are the writing exercises he assigns his students.
Here is one of his favorites:
(1) Write three effective long sentences: each at least one full typed page (or 250 words), each involving a different emotion (for example, anger, pensiveness, sorrow, joy). Purpose: control of tone in a complex sentence.
I took a stab at these sentences last night. They were not easy to write. They are attached in the PDF below.
(Note: I’ve edited the sentences only for logic and typos. Otherwise they are as they came from my head. Admittedly, my biggest struggle was sitting, fingertips to keyboard, waiting for the next clause to bite, so I could reel it up–I’m so used to driveling out of my mouth and nose what comes to mind. That said, control of tone is important. I will continue to hone this skill.)
What are your sentences? Please leave one or two in the comments section below. Was it hard, easy, how did you feel and what were the challenges? I look forward to reading your concentrated thoughts.