NoBloWriMo Post 15

Welcome back! Yesterday, I promised you I would teach you the five steps necessary to write a vocabulary poem. They are the prerequisites to take your mental vacation. If you follow them exactly, you will find freedom in your writing and your thinking that you may not have thought possible.


First, look up an AP English or GRE word list.

Go to:

Click on “Print List” for “Princeton Review’s Hit Parade Words”: all 500 of them.

To increase the challenge, you may choose to move to the Graduate Record Exam vocabulary list:

Again, click on “Print List” and proceed.

To complicate the challenge, look in an unabridged dictionary, choose twenty words unfamiliar to you, and continue this exercise.  Any list works.

Second, choose twenty words at random from your list, after you determine the level of difficulty.

Do not censor yourself or second-guess what the list should be, just choose from the myriad of words.

Sure, it makes it harder that way. That’s the point of the exercise: to get you out of your normal method of beginning a writing project so that your mind can open up, explore ideas, all without preconceived notions of what to do.

The task is tougher if you use words unknown to you, as this requires making more mental connections and learning new words you do not ordinarily use.  The idea here is to s-t-r-e-t-c-h   y-o-u-r   m-i-n-d.

Open that perfectly good mind of yours to learn – and use – words that may help you later, and discover useful derivatives.

Third, look up the meanings of any of your chosen words with which you are unacquainted. Look for how to link them in thoughts, sentences, settings, or other linguistic patterns.

Fourth, write the first stanza. I tell my junior and senior high school students that the first stanza is a challenge test: they must maintain the meter and style of the first verse throughout the poem.

Fifth, let your thoughts flow freely and see what surfaces. As you use the 20 words on your list be sure to underline them. This helps you keep track of your progress. Once you get going, you will likely find you are enjoying yourself.  Your mind keeps the process moving and you may be astonished by what you do.  My students were!


Most of all, remember to relax as you work, and have fun.  After your mental vacation, your mind will be facile and free, your cognitive batteries recharged.  Satisfied and refreshed, you will be ready to resume normal writing, move ahead with your project, and probably complete more than you thought you could.

Depending on which “unabridged” dictionary you use, English has over 500,000-1,000,000 words, the largest language on earth.  Richness and flexibility exist merely by virtue of the enormous vocabulary available to writers.  No one knows all the words in this extraordinary lexicon, so why not learn some new ones and remove a writing block in the process?

And who knows?  You might discover you enjoy writing poetry! I’d love to see what you come up with. If you send a poem, though, be sure to include your list of words.

Note:  If you would like me to send you the original list of 20 words her students used, email me using the Contact Form on the top of this page, or email me at SarahGM917@gmail.com.


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