KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 13 Have you ever tried 'BLOCK POETRY'? I did for my first time last week. I was given a page of writing taken from a book. It could have been a page from a novel or factual genre. It could have been from a dictionary or a newspaper article. It didn't matter where the page of writing came from.
I had to skim the page and select words by highlighting them with a circle or underscore; in fact anyway I wanted to. Then when I had finished I had to read the words together to see if they made a poem.
I tried and I must admit I did go back and forth underlining and crossing out until I was 'happy-ish' with my result. It might be something you could try.
I know it is something I will try again in the future.
My page was taken from a biography of Edgar Allen Poe!
Haunting, innate beauty Charm Sound and form Into artistic unity.
I didn't think that it was too bad for a first-timer! What do you think?
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 12 It is quite common to have a writer's block. Nothing inspires you or you just don't know what to write about. First of all, don't worry. Every writer, whether an amateur like me or a professional, can suffer in this way. Well, here's an idea- get yourself out of your house. Go for a walk in a park, down a busy street or a quiet one. Go for a drive or for a bus ride. Have a walk round your local supermarket. Go for a cup of tea or coffee in a local café and take your note book with you.
1. Watch, listen and write. 2. Describe the people you see. 3. Create back stories for them. 4. Listen to their conversations. (surreptitiously of course!) 5. Write down any interesting dialogue. 6. Describe your surroundings. 7. Use the 5 senses and write down your response to each one. 8. Jot down any notes on the weather and how you feel about it.
I am sure that if you try any one of these suggestions that you will soon have lots to write about. When you get back to your writing space look through your notes and get writing!
I recently did this by visiting Manchester City Centre. Having walked a fair distance into the town I sat in a café and wrote down my observations. Writing like this is a spontaneous action and once captured it can be taken away and worked on or added to something already written.
There's a song called, 'Dirty Old Town', which was written about the city of Salford but as I walked into Manchester it could so easily apply here.
Walking past Piccadilly Station I was amazed by the way the city greets visitors who travel by train . They are greeted by refuse strewn across the walkways; on every street corner, there are dubious characters smoking and along the street towards Piccadilly Gardens are the homeless and beggars. At intermittent intervals along the road they are asleep and wrapped up in sleeping bags and duvets. Some of the men have days old beards, wearing woolly hats and sounds of snoring could be heard. They, along with the women who were also on the streets, are dirty and unkempt with cardboards notices asking for help. I am sorry to sound unsympathetic but they didn't give Manchester a glowing introduction to a first time visitor.
As I reached Piccadilly Gardens, once a lovely garden area, there is a feeling of listlessness and poverty; emitting a run down vibe.
Everyone around has this 'struggle with life' persona which makes me feel guilty. It is about 11 am on a Monday morning and the atmosphere is 'give in and give up'. Even the slither of sunshine which peers through the clouds doesn't cheer the place; it just highlights the smears and grease.
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 11
I often try some unusual sentences to help me get started. These can be used as the first sentence of the piece or the last or just give you an idea. It's up to you how you use them as long as it encourages you to write.
Here are a few, which will hopefully challenge you.
1. They had to drag him away kicking and screaming! 2. It began as a day like any other. 3. Biscuits have never been my thing. 4. She walked away from him and married someone else.!
I actually wrote a piece starting with sentence 3 and finishing with sentence 4. I challenged myself to use only 50 words. This did not include the two sentences. I also wrote a piece for sentence 1, which you can find on the prose page. I hope you like it!
“Biscuits have never been my thing.” Chloe stared in disbelief. Doesn’t like biscuits! They’d been going out for two years and she hadn’t noticed. The wedding was six weeks away and the biscuit themed cake had been her idea. Her family’s business of ‘Cookies and Creams’ was her life. She looked at him again; her future. She walked away from him and married someone else.
Sue Westcott (C.)2017
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 10 Everyone has visited a café whether it was a greasy spoon type, where the tea is so thick a spoon can stand up in it; or it was so full of etiquette when you had afternoon tea, complete with cake stands and flowery china. It could have been an ultra modern café with stainless steel tables or simply a beach café with plastic tables and chairs. It doesn't matter as long as you remember it.
You could write a simple description of your visit describing the décor, the owner; the waitresses. or the food. What was the atmosphere inside the café like? You could write about the people that you saw whilst you were drinking your coffee or tea. Once you have done this you may have an idea for a short story that is set in a café.
Below is a piece of writing about a café I visited when I had a few days in Amsterdam. I wrote it as part of a writing course that I attended run by Naomi Sumner Chan of Brush Stroke Order. I later turned this piece of prose into a free verse poem and it also inspired me to write a story set in a café as well. You can find my poetry version on my poetry page for adults.
Whilst you are there, why not check out my poem called, 'A Visit To Heyward' for a different slice of café life.
It's a bright sunny day, yet freezing cold and I am sitting at the window table of a café alongside a canal in the centre of Amsterdam. The café is full of young people who have left their black iron bikes outside. I am the oldest person in the room. I must have stumbled into a student café. I was attracted by the bright polka dot table cloths and that, part of the windows were misted over with condensation which to my mind meant heat and glorious warmth.
I order a pot of tea and a piece of warm Dutch apple pie. It arrives on a replica Dutch Delph blue patterned plate, which is pretty to look at.
There is a quiet murmur of voices echoing gently round the café with sudden bursts of laughter filling up the space. The sing-song cadences of the Dutch language is soothing. The students seem to be enjoying a break from their studies. The sun glistens on the icy canal and the opaque reflections make interesting shapes. I pour the tea and welcome the pale brown liquid offering me a taste of home.
I cut into the pie expectant and excited by the thought of its tasty sweetness. I bite into the slice; eyes nearly closed as I anticipate the pure joy of that first mouthful. When shock-horror reverberates around my taste buds as the experience suddenly turns sour, and nasty. They have added spicy cinnamon to the apple in the pie!
A feeling of overwhelming disappointment floods my senses and the atmosphere in the café turns bitter. The student's chatter becomes a cacophony of strident sounds; disjointed and out of synch. They annoy me with their happy smiles and acceptance of what the café has to offer.
As for me I replace my dessert fork, gulp down the tea and leave disgruntled and dismayed! Sue Westcott (C.) 2017
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 9. I have found that sometimes being given a start to a piece of writing can be a really helpful way to stimulate the imagination. Read this paragraph and see if it helps to create a piece of writing.
The sun began to set, turning the sky a fiery hue as it mingled amidst a bank of storm clouds. The wind swept through the lowland prairie, bringing the temperature down. In the distance came the rumble of thunder.
Ideas on how to proceed; 1. You could just simply continue the description of a setting, which might be the beginning of a story. 2. You might want to add a character to the scene. Who would be found on a lowland prairie? What would he/she be wearing? 3.Go through the 5 W questions to help you to bring the scene to life. ( who what where when why) 4,There are clues in the sentences to help guide you. Use them to build up ideas for you to explore in your piece of writing. 5. There is a storm on the way- you could describe that or the lowland prairie. 6. Here you could expand on this (you may want to do some research about a prairie or find a picture to help you to develop your idea.) Also doing this type of research might interest you and you could find something else to write about. 7. What came with the thunder? Often in stories thunder can represent turmoil; strong emotions like anger or something unsettling.
Whatever you decide to do be creative, use powerful verbs and adverbs as well as WOW adjectives to bring the scene to life. Good luck!
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 8. Sometimes a simple picture from a newspaper or a magazine can be a good way into writing. A photograph can stimulate a memory or an anecdote. I like to keep a selection of these in a folder and often pull them out when I need something to capture my interest. Obviously with the internet and google images, photographs are easily accessible but I am a little old fashioned and I still like to keep a folder of pictures.
An old calendar is also a good place to start. Each month you could write a piece about that month's picture and build up a selection of stories, poems or descriptions. Here are some pictures, which may help you to start writing.
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 7. Sometimes a simple title can interest you and set you off writing. All you needed was a kick-start; so without further a do, here are 5 titles for you to look at.
1. The Widow's Tale. 2. Driving Lessons. 3. The Family Table. 4. Missing From Home. 5. A Face in the Crowd.
I didn't say that they would be easy!! Good luck.
I tried two of these titles.
Title 4. Missing From Home.
I caught sight of the other me as I shuffled down the street. I stopped. I didn’t really recognise me at first. It was the house that had caught my eye. My lovely house! I stared at the poster which had been stapled to the tree trunk. I surprised myself. I’d forgotten that I could read. I didn’t read anymore.
'Missing from Home!' it read and there was my picture.
Memories flooded back; I was wearing a dress in the photograph- a summer dress, white with bright colourful flowers. I never wear dresses now. I was smiling and had long blonde hair. The now-me never smiled and my hair could be any colour. I never looked at it so I didn’t know. It was still long though. Hesitantly I reached out to touch the photograph but quickly withdrew my dirt smudged hand. The bitten down nails offended me and to touch the poster would be to acknowledge that it was really me there standing there as if I hadn’t a care in the world.
Missing for Home: Please contact 555 4321 if you see or know the whereabouts of... My rusty voice struggled to whisper my name. It sounded alien. I didn’t know who that person was anymore. It was me, true but me in another life.
It was me when I was happy. I had a husband and I had a son. I had a family. My eyes closed, my hands shook and I swayed with dizziness as the memories overwhelmed me. ------------------------------------------- “I’ll see you later,” I shouted to my husband as I closed the front door, “Won’t be long.”
I pushed my brand-new, sparkly pram down the driveway and goo-gooed baby talk to my newly born son. He was adorable; big, bold blue eyes that followed me everywhere, a crop of dark hair and the cutest button nose you ever did see.
I smiled and walked into town bursting with happiness and pride. I shopped and stopped to chat with strangers who commented on my beautiful baby boy.
I turned to make my way home when I remembered that I had forgotten a jar of honey. The supermarket was too far to go back too; my baby boy would need feeding soon so I decided to slip into one of the stores on the main street. It was a small, busy shop and I couldn’t fit the pram inside. I’ll be just one minute I told my beautiful baby boy. Just one minute and my whole world came crashing down around me!
I bought the honey and stepped out from the shop. The pram was gone! My baby, my beautiful baby boy wasn’t there waiting for me. I looked around; my eyes darting to and fro and my heart raced, exploding in my chest. Perspiration heated my body and sweat trickled down my back. Tears sprang into my eyes and I couldn’t catch my breath.
My piercing scream shattered the busy street. I ran around like a headless chicken asking, begging; if anyone had seen my baby. I ran the full length of the street, up and down; sobbing, wild with hysteria until I sank to the floor in bewilderment. A lady, I don’t know who she was, stopped to ask me if I was alright and I cried, “My baby. Someone took my baby!”
The tears fell like a waterfall and my breathing became heavier. I rocked back and forth blanking out the terrible realisation that I had lost my baby boy. For one minute I had left him alone and someone had taken him!
The police arrived, how I don’t know, I was still trapped in my own pain and anguish. Someone held my hand and patted it over and over again. I couldn’t speak. The police asked me questions but their voices sounded so far away. I felt that I was drowning and I keened long and loud.
Then I heard John’s voice. My husband, who always made things right, had arrived. I clung to him and apologised over and over again. Incoherent, I tried to explain myself and what I had done. Guilt overwhelmed me and then there was a blessed blackness and I felt nothing. ------------------------------------------ A car horn interrupted my haunted memories and as I stroked the faded sheet of paper, I realised that the blackness which had enveloped me, had embedded itself into my heart and was still consuming me.
My blank stare chilled me to the bone. My baby-my beautiful baby boy hadn’t been found. And I couldn’t live with myself. I retreated until I was no longer me; I didn’t deserve to be so I had gotten up one morning and simply left her behind.
I clamped down on my feelings and buried the memories again deep down inside me. I shuffled away from the pain of the poster and continued my search. My baby was missing from home too!
Sue Westcott. (C.) 2016
Title 5. A Face in the Crowd.
I ran as fast as I could. I would catch him, I told myself. Breathing deeply I realised that I was gaining on him. “Huh!” I thought. “Those extra days at the gym were paying off.”
Head down I pounded the pavement. I caught of glimpse of his jacket as he turned the corner. I speeded up. He would not get away from me I promised myself.
I rounded the corner and came to a complete stop! I met the parade head on. The crowds were enormous, five people deep on each side of the road. The noise blared into the air with bands, music and shouts of laughter all vying for attention. I felt disoriented.
“Damn! I’d never find him now!” I thought. My eyes searched the crowds. I stood on tip toe peering left and right; to see if I could find him again. I frantically walked up and down, darting to and fro in an effort to catch a glimpse of him. I looked for his red jacket, blue jeans and his mop of curly hair. And then I spotted him across the road –just for a minute; a face in the crowd but the face that I wanted. He laughed when he saw me and then he was gone again; swallowed up.
I poked and prodded my way through the people on my side of the road and ran into the road itself right into the oncoming parade traffic. Stewards tried to stop me; their grasping hands slipping as I tore myself away. I would not lose him again. I caught sight of him again; his blonde curly hair bobbing along as part of the happy crowd. I’m convinced that I heard his giggles over the pandemonium of the parade. He was taunting me.
With super human strength I pushed the stewards off me and dashed into the parade. I ran alongside one of the parade floats carrying a calypso band and dancers. Reggae music blasted my ears but my eyes kept scanning the crowd. I tracked him like a hunter tracking his prey. I would catch him I vowed and when I did...
My heart leapt as I saw his face once more peeking through the crowd. I darted through the chatty, charity collectors and finally reached the other side of the road.
I was breathing hard now and anger fuelled me; a side step here and a dodge there. I made my way through the crowd still seeking his face and then I saw him. I was gaining on him. Fortunately I received a little bit of help as he stumbled slightly bringing him closer. I lunged forward and grabbed his arm. He tried to pull away but I clamped down hard and spun him round.
“Don’t you ever run away from Mummy again!” I shrieked at my five year old son. Sue Westcott. (C.) 2016
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 6. In writing it is often that less is more. I attended a workshop and the guest author told us that a novel that she was writing didn’t read well. Something was wrong so she asked herself, “Where does the story start?” After reading the manuscript again, she realised that it didn’t start until chapter four so she discarded the first three chapters. It is a valuable skill to learn and an effective tool to use. So why not try this technique yourselves.
Write a detailed description of a place or location such as a church, a beach, a fairground or a supermarket. Then imagine two people meeting in that place. Think about how and why they meet, and then cut out all the unnecessary details from your description that do not enhance their meeting or the plot outline that you may have for a story. Don’t worry! This is a worthwhile exercise. Just think; you have written a descriptive piece of writing already. You can use the discarded writing again in another piece of writing or you could recycle it as a poem.
Sue Westcott(C.) 2016
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 5. Giving yourself a time limit is a really good idea to help stimulate the brain muscles! If you practice a 10 minute writing workout every day I am sure that you will improve your writing. This is one that I wrote recently.
I’ll never forget what I have already forgotten!
As they wheeled me down the long, sterile corridor of the Home, I whispered to myself that I would never forget: The warm sunshine shining on my face The sweet smell of the flowers in my garden The feel of soft raindrops gentle on my skin The iridescent colours of a rainbow The touch of my husband’s loving embrace The laughter of my daughter’s sense of fun The golden autumn leaves in all their glory The ice cold snow that glitters with winter promise I’ll never forget... The voice of the nurse interrupted my thoughts.
“What was that you were saying?” she asked.
I stared at the nurse perplexed and whispered,
Here are some ideas to get you started; family, holiday, TV programmes, friends, rainbows and magic. Over to you. I hope that you write something that you are happy with. Good luck! Sue Westcott.2016(C.)
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 4. At my writing group's last meeting we were given this challenging exercise to complete in 30 minutes.
I was given a list of random words and had to create a piece of writing that included all of the words. I was surprised at how dark my piece was compared to the others in the group.
Here are the words: swiftly, closed, wakefulness, apprehension, disappear, difficult, newspaper, cushion, box, grabbed
This was my contribution.
The newspaper headline was difficult to read. ‘Hunt for Cushion Killer Continues!’
It gave the grimy details of his crime and he was ashamed. He put the paper down on the up turned box and sat on the dirty floor. He had holed up here in this flea pit for three days and now wanted desperately to go home. After he had done the dirty deed, he had disappeared from his normal life and had run swiftly away from the crime scene and closed himself in away from the hustle and bustle of the hunt. He hadn’t slept a wink and his wakefulness had allowed the memory of the crime to seep into his consciousness.
She’d been an old, tired lady; his Gran- racked with pain from the evil called cancer that had invaded her body.
He had watched day after day for months the once lively, feisty Gran from his childhood slowly erode away, leaving behind this breathing husk of a woman.
He remembered how she had grabbed his hand; her skeletal claws digging deep into his skin. Her rasping voice whispered, “Let me go Billy. Please help me! Let me go!”
Apprehension had flooded his body and he saw the pleading in her rheumy eyes; bloodshot with the first spark of life that he had seen in ages.
“Help me!” her piteous cries were still ringing in his ears as he felt the cushion in his hands and the cries slowly fading away.
Why not give it a try yourself. If you don't like the first set of words why not try these instead: remembered, situated, murmur, final, anticipation, ran, contract, happiness, flatter, parchment
Sue Westcott March 2016 (C.)
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 3. I quite like this exercise. Write down a selection of people's names. You can make them up, copy them from a story, newspaper or book or ask someone to give you a name randomly. Then you can play around with them.
1. Write a description of the character with that name. This could be a short activity choosing to write a paragraph at a time on each of the following; physical appearance, personality, character, likes, dislikes friends, home, family, work etc. this could be a starter to wake you up each time you sit down to write.
2. Write in the style of a biography or auto-biography. 3. Don't write a stereotypical description from the name- think outside of the box! Here are some names to start you off; Henry Butcher Coral Springfield Fred Higginbottom Lady Penelope Fortesque - Smythe Kane Starr Hilda Braithwaite Sir Clarence Woolville 111(the 3rd)
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 2.
Here is another exercise, which will hopefully help the writing process when the thoughts are just not coming. Why not try one of them and see what happens!
1. Two sentences - Write down about 10 random sentences . These can be made up or copied down from a newspaper or a book. Cut the sentences into separate strips and jumble them up face down so that you can't see the sentence. Choose one sentence. Turn it over. This will be the sentence to start you piece of writing. Choose another sentence. This will be the last sentence of your writing. Now think of how you are going to join up the two sentences and write the passage, poem or story. It can be done! Below is, I think, one of my successes.
Desperation! Two men, who were in the pub at the time, tried to lift him up but he was quite helpless. I sat and watched him. He was obviously in deep despair. Mutterings and mumblings spewed intermittently from his mouth. Great gulps of anguish hovered around him. I was repulsed yet fascinated by his distress. He proceeded to drink himself into oblivion. He did not succeed.
Eventually recognition dawned on him and realisation passed over his features straightening out his creased face. Resolutely he rose and walked stumblingly erect from the room. I followed him unobserved. He seemed to know where he was going. He made his way through the crowded streets where the macabre celebrations were still continuing. He weaved his way expertly to the council chamber. He lifted his fist and pounded on the door, shouting for them to let him in. Lights appeared. I heard the sound of bolts being drawn back and the door opened.
The two leaders; all- powerful, dressed in black with evil satisfied smiles stood there facing him down. He argued with them gesticulating wildly. I could not hear the conversation but it was a heated exchange of words. Finally I saw him take out a bag and throw it to the ground. In the darkness pure silver twinkled. He turned and ran away as if devils were chasing him and at that moment I knew that this was in fact the case. I ran too. I was determined to find him and offer help if need be. For now I knew who he was!
I could hear his footsteps so I followed; this time trying to keep in touch. But as I left the busy, noisy streets and turned into a peaceful garden area of the town, I knew that I was too late!
In the misty distance I could see his body outlined in the pale glow of the moonlight. He had taken his belt and hanged himself in contrition for his terrible deed.
I bent my head praying, hoping that he would finally be forgiven for his wrong doings. I commended his soul to heaven, remembering that Jesus told us to trust in the Lord our God.
KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING! 1.
Sometimes writing just doesn't flow so I have a few exercises that I have used at workshops and at home which might help you to get started. These are designed to wake up the senses, to get you thinking but basically to get you putting words down on paper. Have a go!
1. Extended similes - Choose a well know simile like, as fast as a cheetah. Think of how you could extend it. Something like this- as fast as a cheetah with its tail on fire.
If you try to do about 5 of these you never know your creative juices might start flowing! You could try these to start you off: a) as cold as ice b) as quiet as a mouse c) as hot as fire Good Luck!
2. Extended sentences - Start with a plain simple sentence; The boy went down the lane. Now think of the 6 question starters. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? You can use these in any order. Ask the first question and write the sentence again with the information added. The frightened boy went down the lane. Ask another question and add the information to the sentence and keep on doing this until ; a) you have a fully extended sentence or b) your writing ideas have clicked in and you are on your way. It doesn't matter if you don't continue writing just doing the exercise is enough. This was my effort: The boy went down the lane. The frightened boy went down the lane. The frightened boy ran down the lane. The frightened boy ran quickly down the lane. The frightened boy ran quickly down the dark lane. The frightened boy ran quickly down the dark lane to escape the monster. The frightened boy ran quickly down the dark lane to escape the ugly monster. It was midnight and the frightened boy ran quickly down the dark lane to escape the ugly monster. It was midnight and the frightened boy raced quickly down the dark lane to escape the ugly monster.
And finally: Midnight! It was a cold, eerie night and the terrified boy sped hysterically down the dark, murky lane to escape the salivating, hairy monster.