I have a gift for you. A gift of creative inspiration. A literary gift called a “cento.” A cento is a piece of creative writing crafted using borrowed words and phrases. Essentially, the art of imitation. You have our permission, through this dated craft, to create from our words already written.
Oftentimes, when creative minds work to develop a piece of writing, it can be difficult to hunt for the perfect word or idea, daunting to set up a deliberate framework. Writer’s block plagues us with frustration and discourages development. But writing is meant not to discourage! It is a striking unity of cerebral impressions and outward perceptions, and should not be dissuaded for a fault of motivation. Fellow littérateurs fret no longer. Introducing: centos.
The Latin word “cento” traces back to the 16th century, and translates to “patchwork.” This is the essence of the craft: patching together words already written and publishing them into a new and unique creation. Each line or word in a cento poem or story is taken directly from a source and deliberately fused together. A collaged copy-and-paste creation.
Of course, we are not advocating plagiarism. A cento is not complete without crediting the authors whose words have been abridged and remodeled. At the bottom of each work, writers list the names of the authors of their sources, in the order in which they appear, so that proper credit is given.
The recipe for a cento is simple, one you can pick up and put down at any time. I encourage you to embark on this expressive endeavor. Your creativity may astound you.
STEP ONE: Word Search
Take a scroll through articles on our website, wardefocus.com, or other sources, and look for lines or words that stand out. Maybe you have an idea for your piece, or your collection of language will guide you. What catches your eye? It could be eloquent language, a quirky description, a name of someone you know, or a witty or fun word. It could even be from this article. Pages of inky inspiration or electronic enterprise are at your disposal.
STEP TWO: In the Bank
While the creation will be a product of your design, the words and phrases used are another’s work, and therefore, must be cited in your final piece. As you pick out your material, keep track–either on your phone or a piece of paper–of where you are finding your material and the author’s name for later.
STEP THREE: Cutting Out
Once you have found words or phrases you want to use, cut them out! You can print out articles, or copy and paste online pieces into another doc to print, and snip out what you want to use.
STEP FOUR: Finding Order (Connect Four)
Now it’s time to play around! With slips of words cut out, move them around, find how they can connect. This is where your intuition and imagination can run free. Nothing is final. If your vision isn’t coming together, go back to earlier steps to hunt down more material. This is an artful puzzle to which there is no predestined solution, and can be modeled and remodeled as many times as you please.
STEP FIVE: Coming Together
Once you’ve found an order you’re happy with, organize your final product on a sheet of paper! This is the final step, a welding of your own fiery innovation. After your pieces are organized, make sure to cite the names of source authors that you previously recorded. You are welcome to create a title for your work, either in your own words or drawing from your word/phrase bank.
You now have all the generous tools needed to create your cento! The words have been written, the rest is up to you. Have fun assembling.
Send us pictures of your creations! DM us @thewardefocus or email your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.