Chance Writing Protocol

Why feign creativity when you can leave it all up to chance? Not a fan of chaos theory? Read on; it’s not as impossible as you may think. Granted, I cannot take credit for the development or naming of Chance Writing Protocol (hereafter CWP). However, I can help explain and promote it. Which is just what I aim to do.

Writer’s block is inevitable. Even on days when you sit down and write good amount, you may turn around an hour later, decide it’s all crap and delete everything you had committed to electromagnetic 1s and 0s. The feeling of not being at one’s creative best is itself an obstacle to overcome, and whether you write fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry or song lyrics, CWP is a simple practice to keep your creative neurons firing.

CWP is relatively simple; you’ll need a few scant, but necessary things: something to write with; something to write on; a paper dictionary*; Internet access. I’m easy, so we’ll use me as an example. For starters, I use Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English (Third Edition). I don’t advocate this particular dictionary over any others, but I am partial to it, having schlepped it half-way around the world and back. The numbers of import in my case are 1 and 1557, for the total number of pages with lexical entries found on them. The first number in your individual case will most likely also be 1, but depending on the thickness of the volume at hand, the final number could be higher or lower. Either way, keep those numbers in mind, or just write them down because you likely have enough to try and remember.

The next set of values is 1 and  50. This is an average number of entries found on any given page in my dictionary. Count the entries on a couple of pages, and pick an easy-to-remember number thereabouts and go with it.

So, there we have what we need to start: 1-1557 and 1-50. It’s now time to hit the pornographic parkway information super highway! Go to the following link: www.random.org . Now, how they claim to have a truly random number generator based on “background noise” as opposed to one that works on predictable algorithms is quite beyond me. I studied English. In accordance with CWP, on the main page I will enter my parameters as 1 and 1557. Click the “Generate” tab. Record the number that pops up. Click “Generate” 4 more times, for a total of 5 randomly generated numbers, taking care to write them down somewhere, unless you have more memory in your head than you know what to do with.

Next, reset the parameters to 1 and 50. Again, “Generate” 5 times and record each of those numbers beside the first set of numbers. The first number will be the page in your dictionary, the second, the entry you need to record for CWP. You should get something which looks as follows:

1477 – 9: Varna

824 – 45: manus

920 – 28: noise

900 – 48: nanny goat

35 – 43: allegorist

Presumably you will want to define each word, if you don’t happen to know their meanings. Once you have your words, give yourself no more than 30 minutes to write a poem or song using the words you’ve been given by pure chance. The idea here is not for Shakespeare, but rather to keep your mind thinking, focused on an endgame and writing creatively. And while it’s possible to use all 5 words for prose, poetry or song lyrics force the mind to contend with other issues like rhyme, meter, consonance, assonance, etc. It’s a very refreshing exercise. The originator of Chance Writing Protocol does one session each day, however, I recommend starting for a more attainable goal of 3 times a week. But keep at it.

The following is an example of something I came up with in under 30 minutes using the words listed above. It may be crap, but it was creative and got me thinking. And therein lies the point. So have at it. Feel free to post your own (but do share the words you used first or else I’ll never know the difference). Thanks for reading. I hope you find this activity inspiring and that you forward it on to your friends.

Click Clack Clickety Clack-Clack
The typewriter sounds strike sharp but are drowned
Before they can echo from the cliffs down to the town
Of Varna, caste-like in color, on the shining Black Sea.
Click Clack Clack Clack
An allegorist types a tale to tell
Feverishly smithing words to the self-same noise
Tapped out by the manus of the nanny goat
hooves making contact on hardened ground.
Click Clack Clack Click-Click-Click
The two intertwined indifferent
To the concerns of another world.
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About waronliteracy

Storyteller, teacher, author of "Perfect Solution" and "Dire Requisite," I stand alone in the aftermath of the war on literacy, looking for other survivors ... we are out there ... somewhere.
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