In considering “playing with Words,” I have to consider what play means.

When described in concrete terms, play looks different to different people.

For example, one child likes to put on a cape and belt, and stuff a wooden sword and a plastic vile with an imaginary potion into her belt. She next jumps about, swinging her sword and running up and down the stairs. When asked what she is doing, she may say, “I’m fighting orcs!”

Another child enjoys sitting quietly with a massive sheet of blank paper. It is butcher paper–a light brown shade, and it unfurls from a roll. At his elbows are markers, crayons, chalk, and sticks of charcoal. The girl thinks he is utterly boring and she knocks against the table as she rushes past, upsetting the supplies onto the floor.

The artist quietly picks them up, fetches a cup to corral the supplies. He also fetches tape and attaches his paper to the wall, then welcomes her to “play,” too. The girl is interested because she can move around while she adds to the creation. They are “playing” together, or at least at the same time using the same piece of paper. He has found a way to include her. She has found a way to participate. If the creation is never sold or displayed in a gallery, they will still have played and enjoyed it

In flipping through a textbook recently, I came to this definition: “Play is characterized by the absence of fear. We can describe play as pleasant or fun and as boring or a waste of time.” (1)

I love the idea that play is devoid of fear. Different sorts of play will appeal to different sorts of people which is why it may be enjoyable and fun to one, but seem to be “boring or a waste of time” to someone else.

As a writer, when I play with words, I write primarily to please myself. When I write as play, it is fun and satisfying even if the result is never displayed publicly or published, and it can never be boring or a waste of time. At least not to me. I do not fear correction from a professor who has their own ideas about what I should be writing, and I do not fear rejection from an editor of a publishing house or publication. I am not asking for their approval. This is playing.

Write without fear– write as play.


Install a chalkboard, whiteboard, blackboard, or a framed sign for magnetic letters or words. Play around with words.

I have blue and white magnetic words on our black fridge. My family creates short poems or silly sayings. If nothing else, it brings a smile. My daughter has a small light-box which came with letters. We occasionally change what is says. (2)

Would the above sentence work if it said “Stay close to people who feel like a cloudy day”? What about “Stay close to people who smell like toffee”? What about “Look for frogs who smell like liquorice”?

However you play with words, try unlikely combinations and enjoy the result.

  1. Priest, Simon, PhD. and Gass, Michael, PhD. Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming. University of New Hampshire press. 2005.
  2. Images – Unsplash.
P.S. - You may find errors on my blog posts since I do this for fun, not grades. ­čÖé

Two Types of Story

One of the things I learned while studying the Humanities is that there really are only two types of stories.

CAUTION: this post is only partially true and is most definitely over-simplified. BEWARE!


It sounds way too simple to be true! Wouldn’t writing be so incredibly easy if it were?

The two types are…

Can you imagine a story you’ve read where the characters seem silly, thick-minded, or at least at some sort of disadvantage? Characters like this can’t seem to look ahead far enough to predict the outcome of their actions. As a result, they land in complicated, difficult, and often humorous (humourous) situations.

This type of story is a comedy. The reader is smarter than the protagonist, and despite bumbles and danger, there is a happy ending. A couple of examples are Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and The Rosie Project. Graeme Simsion’s protagonist, Don Tillman, is a professor who bumbles through the story, comedically over-self-aware, yet somewhat heroic as he becomes embroiled in a plan to find a wife for himself and a father for Rosie. Simsion’s story subverts the genre because he wrote a “smart comedy” as the characters are all educated and interesting, unlike the first comedies invented in Ancient Greece, where comedies were peopled with fools and bawdy antics and far too much drink during their festivals to worship their gods. All you have to do to find out this is true of comedy is try to find one on a movie channel that isn’t populated by fools. (They do exists, but they are tricky to find!)

The other type of story is a tragedy. In this type of story, the characters are usually relatable, or even in the higher stations of society like the kings in Shakespeare’s political plays. They fall into one of the Deadly Sins, or make some sort of tragic mistake which leads to their demise. At the end, they are “sadder but wiser, (Aristotle/Coleridge).

Aristotle is the one who first wrote about the two basic types of stories in his book, The Poetics. His two types of stories seem to ring true.

A recent example of a tragedy is The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. While there are amusing parts, the overall trajectory leads through difficult circumstances and seemingly the tragic decision of the son to separate from his family. By the end, he has become wiser.

Can you think of any stories that don’t fit his idea?


The Poet’s Debate

I previously wrote a little about form poetry: the Shakespearean sonnet and the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet.

A third type is the Spenserian sonnet named for the poet Edmund Spenser. A Spenserian sonnet has three interlocked quatrains and a final couplet.

The rhyme scheme is ABAB BCBC CDCD EE, and the measure should be iambic pentameter. Another characteristic is a turn or change of meaning at the ninth line.

Here goes. I use archaic words, made-up words, and bad grammar to force rhymes.

The Poet’s Debate

As a reader I found all the well-known stories

that were kept in the public library shelved;

such adventures I found on these paper journeys,

to places imagined with maps to lands unknowed.

In towns and cities the library is more than storied,

plainly found on Main Street or on a side-street hidden;

in its own stand-alone house or inside one tucked,

bricked-up by bricks or with siding linden.

Beowulf, Shakespeare, Dickinson, and the Wordsworths,

must have great conversations after close’n,

no doubt interrupted by the contemporaries

who’ve turned their backs on formal verses form’en.

Who can say if free verse or form is better poetry,

for one requires much skill while the other a pen only.

I write mainly free verse contemporary poetry which comes easily to me, but I like to play around with form on occasion. It is much more difficult, but I like to challenge myself from time to time.

If you’re tired of plodding along altogether too seriously, perhaps try your hand at form poetry. You may enjoy it.

Book Event, Nuts and Bolts of Writing, Poetry, Writing Life, Writing Life & Business

When Word Collide Writers’ Festival

Calgary, online, Friday August 13th, session: Authors Tell All: Traditional, Hybrid, and Self-Publishing.

Volunteer Host for several other sessions. Enjoy the conference!


Memoir Writing Workshop

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This workshop was recorded as a live webinar with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

To access it, please follow this link: WGA Website – Webinars and Online Workshops