When I was growing up, people used to make mixtapes. They would record a variety of songs onto cassettes so that all of their favorites would be ready to go any time they wanted without having to wait to hear it on the radio or purchase a full album for only one song.
Later, things progressed to CDs and people used software to download songs they liked and created mixtapes that way.
However, when during my MFA program, one of my teachers assigned us a project where we got to make a mixtape, but the catch was that this wasn’t about songs, it was just about words.
This activity was so much fun that I’ve continued to use it with my own students and to add on to my list as the years pass. It makes a great addition to their writer notebooks, where they usually jot down story ideas or character sketches, because unlike the longer ideas and sketches, this mixtape is usually short. It’s just about collecting, not necessarily about processing it just yet.
Additionally, by collecting this mixtape of words, you might find yourself becoming better acquainted with your own voice and style since you are just pulling things that you like and find interesting. As you’ll see in a bit, mine is pretty eclectic, but there are a lot of humorous play on words types or vivid imagery examples that really draw me in.
I encourage you to try creating your own mixtape of words by collecting and writing down the lines that you hear, snippets of things that you see or watch, beautiful phrases, or just words that make you giggle. Either way, this can be a fun exercise to help you pay attention to the world around you, to play with words and phrases, and later, you can even come back and use some of them in your own writing.
In the class that I took, I took a phrase from one of my peers’s lists and incorporated it into a poem that I wrote. I’ve included part of my own mixtape below to give you some ideas.
My Mixtape of Words
Holding fate’s palm against my own
Greening the cube
“The most intense form of pretentious dishevelment”
Today’s menu: eat it or starve
“Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a fake thought and a real one.” -Anna Staffe
Intensity intensifies (tv caption)
Aggressively screams “meow”
“We are but dust and shadows”
The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.
Rattle the stars
“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” -Mike Tyson
infinite lattiginous scintillating uncondensed milky way
“To embrace her was to embrace a piece of night tattooed with fire.” -Octavio Paz
Check your f***s at the door and boldly be you
Hurt people just hurt people
Om mani padme hum (Om the jewel in the lotus Hum)
Stuck on the plateau you have created
You can’t buy love, but you can make it
We don’t wear black to the cemetery
“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.” -Albert Einstein
We think we’re chasing the outcome, but we’re really just chasing the feeling
A Scottish prick in a fast car
Tropical plants a retired jester has mixed up
“…baffled and bemused upon a stumppocked scene of profound and peaceful desolation, unplowed, untilled, gutting slowly into red and choked ravines beneath the long quiet rains of autumn and the galloping fury of vernal equinoxes.”