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“The aspiring poet is constantly lowering a bucket only half way down a well. coming up time and again with nothing but empty air. The frustration is immense. But you must keep doing it anyway. After many years of practice, the chain draws unexpectedly tight, and you have dipped into the waters that will continue to entice you back. You’ll have broken the skin on the pool of yourself.”
– SEAMUS HEANEY
Welcome back after a brief break, to this regular slot each Wednesday, which I call Writers’ Well because: it’s intended to be a source of nourishment and inspiration for the writer in you, it expresses my belief that creative writing can benefit our well being on many levels, and…I love the above quote from Seamus Heaney. It gives me goosebumps every time. It also resonates with my own intention when leading writing workshops. It’s not about producing good writing, it’s about brave, real writing. Writing that goes down deep within to draw up something unexpected.
My recent trip to Scotland included several visits to my mother, who still has a couple of shelves of my ‘ unthrowable away stuff,’ some of which will eventually become ‘throwawayable’, when I have time to sort through it. Among all this I found some personal treasure – a collection of writing prompts and some responses from the very first creative writing sessions I held, five years ago, filed in a folder I’d made immediately after that first session, driven by the buzz of joy and playfulness I’d been left brimming with. I made it from a gift bag left over from my birthday.
This week I’d like to share a very simple prompt, which was part of that very first writing workshop I held – when I had just one participant. It’s super simple and has never failed to bring lots of playful laughter, and some rather random stories. I’ve used it several times since, especially when I’m writing with just one other person.
Each person writes the first sentence of a story, anything at all, and then passes it to the other person who then writes the second sentence and passes it back etc etc writing just one sentence at a time. The speed helps the imagination as does the cross pollination with someone else’s style and ideas. If you want to try this on your own…I guess you could write two stories at a time, alternating between them, and adding just one sentence at a time to each.
This is one of the stories my first ‘student’ and I co-wrote, five years ago. I think I originally set the task at 10 minutes, but we couldn’t stop so I think it ran longer! This particular story ended up in a style for children…I don’t know why, just because. If you look at the photo closely you can see the different styles of handwriting, and the blue VS black ink marking our different contributions. Completely spontaneous and unedited, written in about 10/15 minutes. Enjoy 🙂
Once upon a time there was a wizard living at the bottom of our garden. This wizard really wanted to build a fish pond so he could observe the fish swimming. Of course, with magic, it doesn’t take long, and with a wand he built the pond, filling it with beautiful fish. But then he thought of something else the pond needed, was it a bridge or a swing? He closed his eyes and asked the fish what they wanted, to make their pond even more beautiful and grand.
The fish were not aesthetic experts, but they knew an architect just down the road. The architect was a toad who went by the name of Mr Knowit. Mr Knowit was delighted to come over – he loved giving advice, especially to lowly fish. In his superior way he made his own slow hopping round of the pond and declared, ‘I know exactly what this pond needs!’
They all clamoured to hear this pronouncement, but first he said it needed a brass band as an introduction to his speech. Well, where would they find a brass band at such short notice they wondered, and asked Mr Knowit, ‘Would a chorus of birds do?’
Yes they would do, but only if they first had a practice. Could they sing God Save The Queen for example? Well of course, that was one of their favourites the head fish assured Mr Knowit, and with a loud splash he called the birds to the nearest tree.
But Mr Knowit suddenly had a moment of shyness; perhaps he didn’t really know what was best for the fish! There was a loud intake of breath – Mr Knowit DIDN’T know it, so NOW what were they going to do!? Perhaps they could have an attunement, but alas they had no hands to hold, only tails. So they all faced out and, like the most skilled synchronized divers, touched their tails together in the centre and closed their eyes.
A strange silence came over the group and the wizard appeared and said, ‘What did you get?’
There must be a bridge woven from reeds that all may come to seek the wisdom of the fish!
Mr Knowit knew some other toads and a neighbourly beaver who, when called upon, were more that happy to lend their skills to building the bridge.
If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here: