03 August 2010

Wordle & Writers

Can you guess what I Wordled?

A poet friend, the incomparable Joanne Diaz, introduced me to Wordle, a web gizmo that makes word clouds out of text that you provide. The more often a word appears in the text, the larger it appears in the word cloud.

I’m a sucker for this sort of thing so, of course, I spent a lot of time noodling around with it and the uses for the writer are rich—and not just in the procrastination department. I used it in the creative writing classroom recently with students who were collaborating on a short story. Since they had to conceive and write a story together, I thought Wordle might help them start a discussion about common interests. I generated a series of prompts that they responded to in freewriting. Then we merged each individual’s freewriting into one group document and fed it into Wordle. The conversations that came out of this method were certainly more unexpected and varied than had I just let them lose with the direction to come up with a story idea.

This could easily be adapted to the writer who’s working solo. Need out of a rut? Dump a big chunk of freewriting—written in one day or over several months—into Wordle and see what comes up. Enter your work-in-progress to see what emerges with this different view on the material. Stumped for a title for your story? Wordle it for a brainstorming session. Enter your writer’s statement or compile your text on grant or residency applications to see the overall impression you’re making when you send out your materials. 

What do you think? Do you Wordle? How do you use it?