Writers’ Well – Sensible/Sensitive

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“Too much sensible really isn’t good for one.”

I wrote this phrase in another recent piece of writing, so maybe that’s where the inspiration for this prompt came from. It is also a nod to my background as an English Language teacher, and the concept of false friends. Sensible in English is one thing, but the same word in French, pronounced sensible…means something entirely different – sensitive!

So, we began by writing sensible is… and then completing that with whatever word or phrase came, passing sheets of paper around the circle, until we’d collected some ideas. For example:

…thinking before you leap

…not putting your head in a lion’s mouth

…always carry an umbrella, just in case

etc etc

 

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Then we turned the page, and began sensitive is…, and the circle became quieter and more earnest, while writing things like:

…what it must feel like when a bee lands on a flower and tickles its way to the pollen

…allowing joy and grief – all of it

…really being able to listen deeply

etc etc

 

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The invitation was then to take that inspiration in whatever direction you wished, and write a poem in ten minutes! This is what I wrote:

 

 

Comfortable shoes

eight hours a night

eating less cake 

when my jeans get too tight

putting my wellies on

when the rain falls

answering the phone

when my mother calls

paying my bills

and being on time

live life like this

and you’ll see how the time

ticks by with the monotony

of my grandfather’s clock

on a shelf out of reach

so it doesn’t get knocked

or damaged in any way

but it’s clockwork

so when I don’t wind it up…

 

I don’t know the time

so I look at the sky

and pretend I can feel

each moment fly by

I linger to chat

to a snail on the path

tell it “don’t be so slow!

The bikes go pretty fast!”

 

I’ve forgotten my water

so I follow a sign

I’ve seen for a cafe

but I never had time

 

now I have a black coffee

though I know I won’t sleep

and it’s hard to keep

in the laughter that creeps

into cells that have known

my routine for so long

they’re confused and excited –

what on earth has gone wrong?!

 

the heartbeat, the smiling

the caffeine, the song

I do hope she won’t

keep this up for too long!

 

I pay and I leave

with a bounce in my step

now where’s that next promise to me

I’ve not kept…

 

I had a lot of fun writing that, and thoroughly enjoyed all the other poems that came out of that gathering of thoughts and ideas. Such variety! Care to try this yourself? You’re welcome to share or link in the comments below.

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

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Writers’ Well – Begin again…

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So a new season of writing groups has started. Actually, it started almost a month ago, but I’m just now catching up, so to start this new month, here’s an invitation…

 

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The first Friday back we completed with a ‘sit for 3, write for 3’…

Make sure you have something to write on and with.

Have a timer of some sort.

Sit for three minutes in silence, turning your attention inward, closing your eyes if you wish to.

Now write for three minutes, whatever comes.

Below is what I wrote that day…

 

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Is this how a seed feels before it shoots? Tingling. Reckless. Aware of the risks ahead, but not paying them heed because that crack, that sliver of light – there’s a whole, huge, wild, bountiful, beautiful world out there, somewhere. It emerges, and the dangers become easier to see, but it’s too late – life has taken over and the stretch towards the sun is…inevitable.

 

An opening. A beginning.

 

Darkness doesn’t exist in and of itself, it’s just an absence of light, not an is-ness of itself.

 

Days begin again.

School starts again.

Autumn arrives again.

 

There are so many beginnings…always, always the chance…to begin again.

 

So, all it takes is six minutes a day, and you can bring yourself and your creativity alive again. It’s just a matter of paying attention – then reflecting that back using paper and pen. And if you’d like to share your own responses in the comments below – please go ahead! Delight and enlighten me 🙂

 

Love and blessings all….

 

Harula xxx

Doing the right thing… – Writers’ Well

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What is the right thing? Is there a right thing? What does it feel like when you do the right thing? What does it feel like when you don’t? These were just some of the questions that came up when we explored the topic of ‘doing the right thing’ as our final prompt in last week’s session.

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We began by writing ‘doing the right thing’ as a title on a sheet of paper, and then added a word or phrase of our own in response. These were then passed around the circle, with each writer adding their own thoughts in addition to reading those that had already been gathered.

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We then each wrote a short story, using the lists as inspiration, which somehow explored this theme, whatever direction the writer wanted to take it in. There were a wonderful array of angles and styles in the stories we shared, reading aloud when we’d all finished. Here is my own response, written in ten minutes (no editing):

 

“Come in.”

A red faced, wet faced, screaming, resisting child follows a tired , overwhelmed adult because the adult’s hand is bigger, their arm stronger, and the child is following by force.

 “She hit Thomas again.” The woman deposits the five year old in front of the monk with obvious relief and satisfaction, as the room continues to resound with wailing. She leaves and closes the door on the monk and the child.

“Did you hit Thomas?”

The voice is kind and curious. The wailing stops for a moment to allow an emphatic shake of the head.

“Did Thomas hit you?”

The wailing stops again, and a deep thinking breath can be heard. The quiet allows the monk to gently wipe the tears from the girl’s cheeks and the silence settles and waits for an answer.

The monk has wiped away the child’s tears, and it seems perhaps he has absorbed them, for now silent sadness falls from his eyes. The child looks up. The monk smiles, which squeezes out more tears.

“Why is it so hard to do the right thing? I know you’re trying. I see you trying.”

The child listens and watches intently. The monk puts his hand on the child’s shoulder.

“Are you happy here little one?”

She nods her head.

“Shall I walk you to your classroom?”

Again she nods, and he takes her hand, making his body a little lopsided to the left, so’s not to stretch her tiny arm too much. And someone small, and someone tall open the door to try again.  

 

This was actually inspired by a scene from a beautiful documentary I saw recently, called Tashi and The Monk. Really worth a watch if you have 40 minutes. Find out more here:

http://tashiandthemonk.com/

 

So what are your thoughts on doing the right thing?

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Empty your cup… – Writers’ Well

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image credit: https://blog.englishteastore.com

This week’s prompt was inspired by my sister sharing a story, a version of which you can find at the link below:

http://bengtwendel.com/your-teacup-is-full-empty-your-cup/

In summary, before you can receive (more tea, new ideas etc etc) you need to be empty. So how do we empty ourselves? This was the question, and we sent papers round to collect ideas, such as:

  • Sing to the trees – and the dog
  • Really LISTEN to what another is saying – really LISTEN
  • Dance in the kitchen like a mad person
  • Brush my cat
  • Walk in nature
  • Stare at the sky last thing at night and simply WONDER

and so on…….beautiful!

These gather sheets were then placed in the middle for inspiration and each of us wrote a poem in ten minutes. Here is what I wrote. It’s raw and incomplete, so I’ll likely play with it some more, but this is what I had after the ten minutes:

 

The Green Umbrella

 

I stand beneath

A canopy on the brink of summer

Still bold enough to declare there’s more to come

Still tender enough to show the

Shade of these leaves

Has a little deeper to delve

Into the adventure of green

 

And the light gets through

Dappled and scattered

And drops of rain get through

Slowed down and spread

To land softly on the earth

Or hang like diamonds

From leaves and branches

Rich and abundant

 

The rain plays a song

As it falls through

A pretty delicate song

Full of light, bright voices

Calling my own song out of me

And some notes

Float up to the birds

Who perch up above

Others fall and are turned over

And brought under by worms

And other composting busy beasties

Others shiver the leaves and become

The new shade of green

 

And the last

Disappear

Into the light of the space in between

It all

Through which rain drops continue

To fall

 

 

 

How do you create the space of emptiness?

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Open/Close – Writers’ Well

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Super simple prompt this week. Go on – try it. Get some paper and a pen…

Now, ten times, just write the word open and follow it with whatever word or words want to come…ten times, until you have ten lines, each beginning with the word open.

Next, ten times, write the word close and follow it with whatever word or words want to come…ten times, until you have ten lines, each beginning with the word close.

You have now created some inspiration from which to draw in order to write a poem in ten minutes.

When we did this in last week’s workshop, we each read aloud what we’d written so that all out ideas could cross-pollinate. Our lists contained everything from the mundane to the funny to the profound to the mystical.

 

open the window and let some air in

open as the blossom opens to the bees

open sesame

close your eyes and guess

close of day, such beautiful light

close up, we’re done for today

…and so on –

 

 

This is the poem I wrote:

 

There’s something unhinged

about 24/7

McDonald’s serving big macs at

three in the morning 

is that necessary?

No wonder we’re manically sleep deprived

constantly at the mercy

of that lit up rectangle in

our pocket on

the dash by

the bedside lamp

 

the sound of a fish opening

and closing its mouth

under water –

pop, bubble

nothing to swallow

much less digest

if we don’t take a rest

from the open all hours 

free for all

 

the door

is shut

the windows

are open

to ripple the closed curtains

with spring air

as eyes close

the outer door

gently but firmly

until the inside opens

and seeds gathered

are sorted and sifted

the best kept and planted

others discarded

and behind closed 

eyes they grow

to a glow

until its time

to open anticipating eyes

to let them shine

the inside

out

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

 

Patience – Writers’ Well

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Image credit: https://kimsmithdesigns.com/tag/monarch-butterfly-emerging-from-chrysalis/

I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened; the butterfly started slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath, in vain.

It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

  • A passage from Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

 

This week’s prompt is inspired by the above, a beautiful passage and a powerful reminder of the importance of being patient; and the potential consequences when we are not. I actually didn’t have the quote to hand last Friday, so I paraphrased, and then gave each writer two small pieces of paper. On each I asked them to write an example of a generic situation in life when patience is important. Those pieces of paper were folded and then placed in the centre of our circle. Each person then picked one, and used what they found written there as inspiration for a story, to be written in 10 minutes.

I highlighted two possible directions they could take it in – either demonstrating how patience pays off in that situation, or the consequences of impatience.

In all honesty my response was by no means the best example, but that’s what I have so I’ll share it. Personally, I found all the stories incredibly moving, with some tender and knowing laughter too. Patience has such profound power, and I am certainly guilty of regularly lacking it. I’m learning – but slowly. Guess I’d better be patient with myself 🙂

So, this is what I wrote:

She leaned against the gate and watched. The sun was up, but not yet high, and the dew had not yet lifted itself from the grass that glistened, silver and expectant.

“Give up!” her brother had said.

“Stop wasting your time” her mother insisted. “Lord knows there’s precious little to waste young lady, and I…”

Sam hadn’t heard the rest. She’d managed to look as if she’d been listening, but her mind had drifted elsewhere; to this gate, this field.

She watched as the filly tossed her head, still not coming within twenty feet of her, let alone deigning to be touched. It occurred to her, as she lifted her own head to watch something fly over high above, shielding her eyes to try and identify it, that her father was the only one who’d not weighed in with an opinion on this. How had she not noticed before? He’d neither encouraged nor discouraged, just kept out of it. Watching. Waiting.

She smiled. He was waiting and watching her. She was waiting and watching –

“Here girl,” she tried again, calling gently and holding out her hand, knowing nothing would happen, just enjoying their little game. She calmly took in everything about the filly; her not yet full tail, the way her chestnut colouring darkened on its way down her legs, the angle of her head, the shape of her ears. 

“Nothing to see here.” The phrase came from nowhere. “It’s rude to stare.” Her mother’s voice continued in her mind. “I didn’t bring you up to stare young lady.”

Sam turned away until her shoulder faced the filly, and breathed gently, deeply. She was looking towards the river but didn’t see it. Every ounce of her was listening out, feeling through the ground – was the filly moving? Coming closer? She hardly dared look.

She saw her dad walking towards her and heard the filly snort and canter away in the opposite direction. She rushed towards her father to tell him what she thought she might’ve discovered.

 

What situations recently have called upon all your reserves of patience?

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

When you’re real… – Writers’ Well

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The prompt I’d like to share this week began with me reading a very beautiful passage from a book called The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. Here is the quote, which you may well have come across, as it’s become very popular…
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“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

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We then each took a blank sheet of paper, writing at the top “When you’re real…” and completing it with our own thought below; passing the paper on to the right, and receiving another to the left, adding another thought until our own paper came back.

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Taking this creative gathering as inspiration, we then each wrote a poem in ten minutes. This is what I wrote, inspired by someone who’d written, “When you’re real…you know how a flower feels“. Enjoy 🙂

 

I’m not a flower

“I’m not a flower”
was a line from Bambi
and it always made me giggle
because the character
wanted to be really
at least
that’s what I heard

bees that roll around
in a huge pink poppy
dressing in pollen
make me giggle
daisies still curled up
sleeping through daybreak
because the sun’s not yet reached them
make me giggle too

kindness makes me roll
inwardly like that bee
dressing myself in joy

hiding under the duvet
on a day off I dare the curtains
to let in the sun before I’m ready
to wake

Do flowers know
they could be picked at any time
Could anything be so fearless

as to let its beauty radiate
so brightly the world
is desperate to claim it for a vase
yet still it holds nothing back
of its colour or scent

I think I need to study
with the dandelions
and the child I saw at the end
of his father’s arm
leaning down
to blow the clock off it

I’m not a flower –
yet

 

thats not a flower

Here is the moment, in image, from the Disney movie. Turns out Thumper actually said ‘That’s not a flower!’ and the skunk didn’t actually say ‘I’m not a flower,’ but was still quite happy to be called one!

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

Story within a story – Writers’ Well

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image from Wikipedia

 

So this is from last week’s session, where the prompt was to write a story within a story. We began by considering first when we tell stories (before bed, over dinner, at weddings, around the fire etc) and then why we tell them. Each person had two small pieces of paper, and wrote one response to each question, placing it in the centre of the circle so we could all see. Taking that as the inspirational spark, we wrote for ten minutes. This is what I wrote…

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The children gathered around the fire. Some were throwing on sticks and twigs they’d foraged from the forest floor. Their eyes danced with the flames, and the night began to wrap round them like a cloak, to protect and enfold.

“So…” announced their leader, “who’s got a ghost story?”

There was a communal cheer, but the groan underneath it was more easily heard, because it went against the whole.

“What is it Jake?”

Now all eyes were on the groaner, some pointing and laughing, others groaning in turn. He always interrupted the fun.

“Ghost stories are boring.”

Various retorts to the contrary followed, as well as taunts of scaredy cat, sissy and the like. The leader sighed and waved his hands up and down to settle the noise that seemed too big for just ten boys.

“What kind of stories do you like Jake?”

There were suggestions called out through laughter, and again the leader raised his hands to invite calm. Jake shrugged his shoulders. Silence settled. The flames cackled.

“True stories,” he eventually offered.

“Go on,” the leader encouraged, curious now.

A couple of yawns appeared around the circle that was settling into a warm glow, much like the fire, whose flames had settled into radiant embers.

“There used to be reds in this wood. I saw one, when I was younger. More birds too, when I was five, I saw loads.”

The circle breathed in, breathed out, relaxed.

“My brother, he’s older, he’s got a gun. He’s started shooting grays. Gray squirrels. Shot five one day. They’re taking over, coz they don’t belong here, and there’s nothing to stop them. I climbed a tree once and stayed coz my parents were arguing. I saw the gray squirrels playing. I think they’re fun. I don’t want my brother to shoot them, but – . I want to see reds too. But -” He paused.

“I don’t know what’s right, but the woods are changing – I’ve seen them – it’s like a shrinking, or, like, if you listen – there’s less. It makes me sad.”

A couple of heads nodded. Silence. An owl. But what kind?

 

What’s your story within a story?

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

 

Curiouser and curiouser – Writers’ Well

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Where does curiosity come from?

This was one of the questions I posed to the writing group last week, giving them 3 minutes to then write and explore that topic, with no sharing afterwards. This was a simple exploration. I then asked them to answer three questions, which they would use as the basis of a story to be written in ten minutes, which would then be shared:

 

Who is curious? (choose/form/create your character)

What are they curious about?

Where does that curiosity then lead them…?

 

The results were wonderful, but something even more wonderful came just a little later. One of the women who participated emailed me later that same day with a new piece, written in a cafe after the session. It seems the inspiration continued to flow. In fact, she had been dissatisfied with her earlier piece, and was thrilled to find her words and imagination and creativity flowing more freely when she wrote again.

I was so touched, and so thrilled. There’s nothing more exciting and…well, that gets to the point…than offering someone tools to play with, and then witnessing them making use of those tools in their own way in their own time, and feeling the joy and freedom of that. She very kindly gave me permission to share the context briefly, along with what she wrote – so here goes. Enjoy!

 

This really was an Alice in Wonderland moment . She looked at the palm of her hand, what on earth was happening. She had sat down on a big rock at the edge of the river. The sun was shining down on her and the heat made her body relax. She felt the rock beneath her, firm, and now very hot from the sun and she felt so comfortable – as if she was almost sinking into the rock. She could hear the birds singing and the gentle noise of the flies and other insects as they buzzed and fluttered on with their daily business. There was hardly any wind and the sun was now so bright she wished she had brought her sunglasses. She was watching a ladybird climbing up a blade of grass and then turned more on her back to look directly up at the sky. The sky was that wonderful blue that we all dream of on a cold and rainy winter’s day. No clouds – she felt like she could almost touch the sky. She raised her hand up and then it happened – very very curious.

Her hand started to grow – first the fingers and then the thumb – they started off like short branches but were soon very long and tall as the tallest tree. Her palm had widened as well. She was fascinated at the speed at which this had happened -was it really happening or was she dreaming?  It was strange that this huge hand didn’t feel any different to her normal hand. It didn’t feel any heavier. She really wanted to take a closer look at this hand – but she couldn’t figure out how she was going to do this as it was so far from her now. How was she going to bend her arm so that she could look at her hand and see if it was real or if it was just her imagination. She raised herself up to a sitting position – her arm and hand still flying high in the sky. Ah she thought – if I turn my hand down it will be reflected in the river and then I’ll be able to see. So she tried. It took her a few attempts at this maneuver and she nearly knocked over a nearby tree in the process – but finally she managed it. There it was – her hands reflection in the water – the shadow filling up all the river that she could see.

She stood up to get a better look to try and see the whole of the reflection. There it was – the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the ocean, the river, the mountains, the desert, the jungle, all of life was reflected in the palm of her hand, a multitude of faces of people and animals coming and going. Wow she said out loud – curiouser and curiouser. She was then filled with an emotion she had not felt for a long time – contentment – complete and utter contentment. She felt at one with the world, with nature, the weather the people the animals. After all it was all in the palm of her hand! She turned on her side and fell asleep. She barely noticed the wind that was created by her hand shrinking down to its normal size. A couple of buzzards did however as they had to dive to avoid her ring and middle fingers.

 

 

What are you curious about? What could you do to feed that curiosity, find out more…?

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/