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I recently finished creating a set of thirty six writing prompt cards based on the theme of the elements, which I ‘baptised’ and tested with a few writer friends recently. I’ve been sharing a few examples of the exercises with you over the last few days to see what you think. Today it’s one of the six exercises inspired by the element of water. I’ve also included what I wrote in response. Enjoy:-)


The River (20 minutes)

Take a moment to play with the idea of imagining your life as a river. Where did it start, where has it been and what’s its destination. This is an opportunity to symbolise instead of getting stuck in detail and fact. You might describe the landscape, the river’s size and speed, any people or boats on the river etc. Paint a picture of how you see your life’s journey, as of this moment.

You have twenty minutes, so use that time as you wish, making notes or taking some reflection time to start with, or just going straight into the writing, whatever serves you.


A small, pure, mountain stream bubbles up with enthusiasm. It laughs at the joy of rushing down the mountainside, not deterred  or hurt by any bumps or deviations along its way. No responsibility, no effort, just the joy of flow.

A little older and wider, the river’s pace has slowed. Its water has become rich with life and minerals. It carries, feeds, houses. A dam is built across it and pressure builds. What once flowed becomes still, heavy, huge and all encompassing. Villages have been engulfed as water continues to arrive and rise, flooding the landscape and causing those who lived there, animals and humans alike, to move away. All the time water continues to arrive and rise.

At last, the damn bursts, and in the destructive rush of release, much is dragged along with the power of this new found flow, but this slows down almost immediately, though trees and other natural debris caught up in the flash flood continue to float on the river’s surface for several miles, before settling on its banks further down.

The river is again finding a natural pace and starts to get a sense of its destination. There grows a busy collection of villages along its banks and the value of the river is much acknowledged by those who make their living from it, either directly by fishing, or more indirectly by using it as a means of transport through which to trade with distant towns. Some still come to the river to wash their clothes and bathe, and the river seems not mind, its constant flow allowing it to heal and cleanse without becoming overburdened with dirt and waste.

Now very wide, and slow enough to be referred to as ‘gentle’, the river enjoys serving those who come to it, and somehow, they sense this too. They sing their thanks to the river, throw in flowers, bring their children to swim and play and splash and laugh.

Still slower and wider, the river begins to sense its destination is nearer and, though it’s keen to reach it, recognises its inevitability and therefore knows there’s no need to rush. Birds appear overhead and their calls speak to the river’s memory in a way it can’t quite understand. It knows this particular call is significant somehow, but it doesn’t know why. The meaning of those wide wing spans and yellow eyes evades the river. Still it moves, unhurried and fearless, unstoppable and fully surrendered to its onward journey, and the intensity of the call.