Be your own thesaurus. Pick a word, and write down as many synonymous words as you can. Then, expand to synonymous phrases, then to synonymous metaphors. Play with the idea of similarity.
For this week’s exercise, I chose to explore the word pot. I had no good reason for choosing this particular word, but I couldn’t come up with anything more exciting. Rather than spending too much time dwelling on what word to choose, I decided to go with the first thing that came to mind. My gaze landed on the little ceramic pot that holds the slips of paper with these exercises on them. It’s certainly not an exciting or glorious word, but I went with it anyway.
So what is a pot, but a container. A tool used for cooking. In that sense, I came up with the following similar words:
From this list of words, I moved easily into a series of synonymous phrases. Here are a few I came up with containing the word pot and other similar words:
Pot calling the kettle black.
Out of the pan, into the fire.
Kick the bucket.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
While I didn’t come up with any synonymous metaphors centering on the word pot, I was struck by a certain similarity that emerged in the above phrases. There is in all of them, a sort of negativity. I can’t help but wonder about the origins of these idioms.
I think the idea behind this exercise is to complete it quickly, to let the mind play with words. I think it should be used to create surprising connections between words and ideas that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before.
This might not have been an especially useful exercise, at least not in the immediate sense of producing material for a larger work. Even so, it was interesting to see where I could go with a mundane word such as pot. And I do love the word cauldron. It has a sort of magical quality about it, don’t you think?