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Writers, don’t delete your email spam!

December 18th, 2010 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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Spam is a pain, and it seems to be getting more pervasive. Not only is it on the other end of the phone, in my letterbox, and in my email, it has also crept on to Twitter. But I have at least found use for a certain type of email spam. Here’s how you can turn spam frustration into inspiration.

Use junk mail for inspiration!

Image courtesy of Dvortygirl at Flickr

I was reminded of this by a comment on my last post, Excuses, excuses… from Rob. He suggested putting a random word in the centre of the page, and writing sentences up to that word and beyond. I elaborated by saying you could scatter several random words about the page and “join the dots” with your sentences. Being forced to incorporate the word(s) adds a restraint that can act as a creativity catalyst.

Suddenly I remembered a similar exercise I undertook with some unwanted email junk. There are many ways to spam an inbox, most designed to try and get past the sophisticated spam blockers we have nowadays. In amongst the adverts for viagra and penis-enlargement; the promises of desperate Russian women routinely mistaking the email address of someone they’ve met online with yours; the African professional who has accidentally inherited a fortune and inexplicably wants to give it all to you – amongst all this crap, is email that looks like the ramblings of a dictionary gone insane. And it looks something, like this:

Break the use trying her hand your normal catching him almost enough umpkinseed pie small ornate jewel set olie clung was alert membranes and open die big mushy diem had the grass ignoring her counsel could snake slithered disappoint him cocaine properly trained and listened vila was full basket risk passing clouds ahead amidst the clouds that disaster and hat will stepped off the security provide the arrow crawled cknowledge the the constructi skeletons assume have children better hear and plans…

That’s enough of that.

There were the names of some drugs amongst the words, but these have been removed to keep my blog clean.

So we have a collection of seemingly randomly generated words, complete with spelling mistakes (or at least, incomplete words). The aim of the game is to use as many of these, in order, as you can, joining each of them up with your own words. You do have permission to miss out some words, if it’s really difficult, and you can correct spelling errors, of course (how could you resist?).

Here’s how I got all the way to “alert” in the chunk above, using most of the words:

She tried to break the door, but it was no use. Trying had made her hand swollen already. This was clearly not your normal door, and she had little chance of catching him now. She had almost had him, but wasn’t fast enough. And with him went the Shanksbury Pie, a small ornate jewel set in a gold ring. But Olie refused to give up, and clung to the hope that her partner was more alert than her.

I didn’t quite include every word. There were a couple of drug names in the section I used above that I skipped over. But overall I thought it was a pretty good effort! If nothing else, I have a starting point for a story that I can develop further.

Why not take the rest of the spam quote above and see what you can make of it. Or, have a riffle through your own junk or spam filter to see if you can find writing inspiration in the madness.

If you’re feeling brave, you could even add your piece to the comments section!