William Lychack is a fantastic writer, and an extremely generous and kindhearted person -- I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was a student at Purdue and he came to give a reading as part of the Visiting Writers Series. His short story collection The Architect of Flowers is simply marvelous!
I recently came across this writing prompt from William, who now teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Pittsburgh, and I wanted to share it with you because I think it is terrific!
Choose a piece of your writing that you particularly like or need to think about in some way. Rewrite the piece by copying down the opposite of each word in the excerpt (except, perhaps, for "little words" like articles and prepositions). Because most words don't have exact opposites, the possibilities are endless, and that's the point. Your story or poem or letter or postcard probably won't make much sense at first, but continue writing your inversion until you have your own draft. Work quickly on this first draft, letting your unconscious decide the antonyms. Now put the original away and see what you can make of your draft. Look for a sense of place, character, or subject to develop. Cut out what you can't make work. Alter details as much as you wish.
Isn't that a neat exercise? I am going to try it for myself today! Will you join me?