Writing Exercise of the Week: 10 Random Words

I was first introduced to this exercise when I was a student at the California State Summer for the Arts (CSSSA, or InnerSpark as it’s known). There are many variations of this exercise, and it can be done alone, with a partner, or in a group. Simply, you will use 10 different words in poem and that is the only rule: use all ten words.

In a group:

  • Decide on a time limit for this exercise. 5 to 10 minutes is usually a good start, but it can always be adjusted.
  • Each group member writes a word (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) on a small slip of paper, folds it, and puts it into a hat (or some other holding device. You can use a plastic skull from anatomy class if you are feeling a little macabre.)
  • Once everyone has placed their ten words into the skull…er, I mean hat, pick one person shake everything up really well.
  • Pass the hat around the room until everyone has chosen their 10 words. You can do this one person, one word at a time, or one person, ten words at a time.
  • Once you have your ten words, get to writing! Go, go, go! Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Just write!
  • When time is up, have a read aloud. Bask in the creativity around you.

With a partner:

  • You can use the same word-generating method as above, or pick words for your partner to use.


  • I like to use an online generator if I do not have anyone around to pick words for me.
  • If you are in a public space, you can also eavesdrop on someone and use words from their conversation. I love doing this and I am not ashamed.

Need a few words to flex those writing muscles? Here you go:

  1. Parliament
  2. Mouse
  3. Mulberry
  4. Sole
  5. Herald
  6. End
  7. Bath
  8. Wig
  9. Kidney
  10. Pride

Feeling adventurous? Limit the words in your list to only nouns or only verbs, or to one category. As you get more comfortable with the exercise, add more restrictions to force your self to become that much more creative.

If you have a poem you wrote using this prompt, leave a link to it in the comment below so we can all read it. If you wrote a flash fiction piece instead, link it! Link all the links!


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