Monday Metaphor Musings #5

We are surrounded daily by comparisons stated as similes and metaphors.

Here’s one from TV’s Cheers:

Woody: “How’s it going, Mr. Peterson?”

Norm: “It’s a dog eat dog world, Woody, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.”

Manny on Modern Family says, “I’ve always felt out of place in public school, like a long petunia in an onion patch.”

Norm’s implied comparison of life to the dog world is a metaphor. Manny’s comparison (using the word “like”) is a simile.

For clarification, I use the word metaphor as an umbrella term for both similes and metaphors. The only difference is that similes use the words “like” or “as,” while metaphors are implied comparisons.

Time for another word-association exercise. You did this before by brainstorming the word web and by finding the right metaphor to describe yourself. Then we clustered the word door. Last time we found a metaphor for life.

If you didn’t do the previous exercises, I invite you to go back and try them. Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to know where your musings led you.

Kids who’ve been untarnished by rigid educational protocols naturally think in terms of similes and metaphors. As I’ve said before, we’re born creative—in God’s image. Imago Dei. If we get to adulthood having “lost” our imagination, we might have to work a little harder to re-discover it. This brainstorming exercise helps us do that.

How about a little quiz to test your metaphorical intelligence? You definitely have some, but you might not know it. This is for pushing the boundaries of comparisons . . .

You don’t have to write down the quiz answers unless you want to. Just consider each possibility. See what comes to mind. Feel free to go a step further and cluster the word or phrase that best fits each question. (Clustering instructions are below.)

There are no scores, no right answers in this multiple choice quiz. In fact, each answer could be the right one. It all depends on how you see it, and which analogies seem more fitting than others.

“Compare Your Situation” Multiple Choice Quiz

Answer the following by choosing the comparison that best completes the sentence. In what ways could it be each of the answers? (You might even think of additional responses.)

1)  How is raising a child like:
a. pruning a tree
b. ridding your pantry of mice
c. driving from L.A. to Maine
d. watching a bonfire
e. __________ (your own idea)

2)  How is giving a speech like:
a. driving through rush hour traffic with the gas gauge on empty
b. eating liver and onions for 3 days straight
c. investing in the stock market
d. riding in a canoe down the Amazon River
e. __________ (your own idea)

3) How is waiting for an important letter or check in the mail like:
a. navigating a sailboat through a thunderstorm
b. watching an hourglass drip sand
c. making a recipe with 23 ingredients and 15 sets of instructions
d. running a marathon
e. __________ (your own idea)

4) How is making an important decision about a job like:
a. walking into a room and forgetting why
b. taking a multiple choice test with too many options
c. eating dinner at an extremely fancy and expensive restaurant
d. doing the high jump in a track meet when you haven’t practiced
e. ___________ (your own idea)

5)  How is planning a vacation like:
a. looking at the stars
b. promoting a product
c. cooking a meal
d. performing a magic trick
e. ____________ (your own idea)

6)  How is building a house like:
a. conducting an orchestra
b. shooting a target
c. driving a motorcycle
d. fighting a fire
e. _____________ (your own idea)

7) How is going fishing like:
a. planting a garden
b. prospecting for gold
c. stacking playing cards to make a tower
d. listening to a high-pitched squeal
e. _____________ (your own idea)

There. You did it! Did any of these phrases grab you? If so, get a piece of paper and write them down.

For clustering, the rules are simple: start with a phrase or concept in the middle of the page—whichever one inspired you from the quiz above. Then write down snippets of whatever comes to mind. Not in a list or outline, but spiraling out from the word like fireworks.

Jot any association of word or image. Keep writing and fill the whole page. Take rabbit trails off new words. No censoring! And don’t worry about spelling, grammar, penmanship, time limits, or any of that left-brained stuff. Just let yourself go.

Do the same thing with the phrase/action/concept you’re using for comparison. In the same way, come up with as many connections and images as possible.

Why do this?

1)  It helps get all the words and images that are stuck in your brain out onto the paper. Those words are your raw materials to build with.

2)   This free association enables you to come up with connections you might not have thought of before. Including really cool similes and metaphors to use in writing.

Join me in clustering those two phrases right now.

Write down anything that comes to mind. The main thing is to get the words and thoughts from your head to the paper. It doesn’t matter how jumbled it all comes out. You can always re-arrange later.

• Set a timer for 5 minutes and just start writing everything that comes to mind when you think of the comparison you chose. Do this without music or distractions. Just focus.

• No censoring! No judging! Nobody’s looking over your shoulder to make you feel foolish. Just write whatever. Keep the pen moving. And don’t watch the clock. Don’t read ahead, either. Feel free to take rabbit trails.

Ready? Start the timer. Five minutes.


What did you discover as you compared the one situation to the other? There are no right or wrong answers. Feel free to share in comments below.

What’s the point? The point is that you can make connections and you have something worthwhile to say.

It’s a starting point for creativity. I’ve had students finish brainstorming like this and suddenly want to keep writing, whether a poem or an essay. They narrow their focus, decide on their purpose, and start composing.

If this exercise leads you to write, do it! Get that first sentence on the page and start going. Don’t worry about form, content, order, grammar, etc. Just get your thoughts down. You can revise later, if you want. Or not.

The main thing is to discover connections, metaphors, and irony. Discover that you have something to say, and a unique vehicle (sometimes a metaphor) to say it with.

Clustering can take you in directions you may not have considered before. It’s all part of the PROCESS.

What analogy/comparison/metaphor did you develop?

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,


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6 thoughts on “Monday Metaphor Musings #5

  1. I might as well sweet-talk a snowman to stop melting as convince my little grandson to not come in the bathroom while I’m in there 🙂
    Neat exercise. I’ll have to share it with my high school English teacher son!

  2. How is raising children like ridding our pantry of mice? 😂😂. All of the snacks are bitten into and scattered everywhere! 😂. This could be a fun family night!

    1. In that way, Brooke, the same analogy applies to my own family years ago, when they all lived at home. Let me know if you come up with some good ones on your family night!

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