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Archive for the ‘exercises’ Category

As you know, sometimes I feel the need to write about the current world in order to process my thoughts and feelings.  Often this is a response to a political situation but at the moment it’s about our collective disregard for the environment.

I am a little obsessed with plastics right now. Having spread the word on microbeads to anyone who would listen, it’s now a wider issue of plastics turning up in our rivers, seas and oceans – and the fish we eat, the water we drink, the salt we add.

So I decided to work on a poem based on the flow of rubbish.  It might end up being – well, rubbish! But it allows me the opportunity to get up in front of some people and raise their awareness of a particular issue in a way I hope will make them think, but not feel lectured.

We shall see.

In the meantime I was on a car journey today on narrow, unlit, closed-in roads though the dark night with owls flying over us – I have a whole new stanza for my spooky poem.  I better get that finished soon too: we set a date for the next open mic, and it’s not long before Halloween!

Off I go to watch videos of clogged waterways to think of a metaphor that can carry me through the plastic lifecycle…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I’ve been working on the same poetry plans since my last post, so from a writing point of view there’s not much to add.

However, having some relatives staying has led to a different way of prioritising my time for the last few days, and will do so for the next week.

It’s quite good, in many ways: change makes you try new ways of managing your time or organising your arrangements and for me having a different routine means writing is far more structured. Writing has gone out the window but new work is being formed.

It occurs to me that my routine gets stale and I don’t make the most of my writing time when I get too staid – maybe familiarity breeds contempt, or maybe it’s just easy to sit out the tasks when the same time and the same arrangements are in place every day.

I think changing up my routine on a regular basis makes a lot of sense, and I will keep working on it, but for the length of my family visit, I will write when I can and accept that might be an unknown quantity until the day in question!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Firstly, apologies for another short post; it’s been a long day and I have no idea where the last hour of it went!

This week I have been thinking about titles.  In all sorts of ways, actually, but keeping to the writing point, I focussed on how a title builds a poem.

When I did my second writing course way back in 2010-11, there was an exercise where we had to write a poem based on a given title.  I have shared the poem that came from it before but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll post it again.

I loved that exercise, because it relied on something sparking in me, and led to me creating my own list of possible titles. ‘Stone Dragon’, the poem about my Grandfather, was born from that list.

I am struggling now with the poem inspired by the sofa cushions and thought this ‘pick a title’ approach might help.  I won’t post the options but I will admit some make me want to go in a completely different direction.

Maybe I should let them: writing to demand is hard enough, writing to a particular theme on demand is worse.

Still, a working title to build from might be helpful if only to focus my attention on something specific.  I need to really get to grips with this project before another year is over…

If you have any fun ideas or useful words for me, feel free to post them; I need all the help I can get!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week has been all about getting inspiration for the new project I spoke about last week.  There’s a school of thought that says writing is habit, rather than waiting for the one or two magic moments that form a scene or send a character in to fight whatever enemies you think up.

I’ve always felt this was true for prose and less so for poetry, but when time is limited, you have to give your inspiration a bit of a kick start!

This is where a notebook comes into its own : by collecting ideas like scattered seeds – stories I’ve heard, words I like, song lyrics that create strong emotional responses, political angst, the colour of leaves on a September day – I can look back and see what I think can be nurtured into poetic life.

Today’s idea was for a poem inspired by a post it note that had got lost between the sofa cushions. The poem reflects on the way our lives change over time and how something that was important can be so easily forgotten. Maybe I will post it here when it’s done.

This is good timing, because I am just about to start a course on writing poetry, with a view to engaging more with my own.

I am a more natural writer of poetry than prose and I find the process more fun, so getting into a project demanding new work is a real positive for me, and I am excited to see which of my little seed ideas blossoms and creates fruit of its own!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have recently been working on finding quotes about a variety of concepts.  I started by looking things up for my wall at work, where my Action for Happiness poster is a little lonely because I have taken down some photos – I need to change things up sometimes!

I have subsequently been looking for quotes for other things, and other people.

I am not sure why they help but they do.  Perhaps it is the knowledge we are not alone in feeling something, or that a positive thought has a positive impact, or even that it gives us a different way of looking at things.

Whatever it is, it’s actually quite fun to look at lists of quotes.  As you may remember I was even inspired by a quote to write my poem Cicero and now I am pulling together a new set list I may well use that technique again.

There is power in words to inspire, delight, agitate and infuriate – and all of these can spur the writing imagination. Plus you might find a comic gem or two along the way!

So quotes are now in my basket of writing tools to draw upon when I need to spur my imagination – or my sense of humour!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Last week I talked about using a visit to the hospital to explore setting, and I thought I would expand on that a little more this week, by focussing on senses.

I have already been reminded that setting is sensory, but what exactly that looks like depends on the scene and the story.  If your character has some sort of disability or hyperability this will also affect your approach.

Here are just a few examples from the hospital to help get you thinking for your own scenes:

Sight: lighting, colours, machinery, beds, bandages, drugs, people in uniforms, curtains, long corridors, seats with plastic covers

Sound: beeping of machines, pumping up of blood pressure monitors, tinny sound of music from other people’s earphones, buzzing of voices, echoing footsteps, scraping of chair legs, sirens

Smell: antiseptic, flowers, antibacterial gel, tea, plastic, floor polish

Feel: Overheated, heavy cotton curtains, slippery bed bars, hard mattresses, thick cardboard trays, tight bandages, the pulling of stitches

Taste: Dry, chemicals, stewed tea, sugary fruit sweets, gravy

Obviously all of these would be open to change depending on why your scene is at the hospital but it’s a place to start thinking about your scene in different ways.

I am going to call it quits there, as it’s about 2 minutes to midnight again, but I hope you find it useful.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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Today I was visiting someone in one of our local hospitals.  As I said on Thursday, this week is not so much productive as reflective, and following this particular visit I thought it would be worth playing about by using a hospital visit as the basis for an exercise.

This is setting as described by a particular character – 20 year old Emma, a reluctant visitor to her grandfather’s sickbed.

What the place seems like to her: A waiting room, for a train with an unknown destination. Everything is in shades of grey-beige, bland and porridgelike.  Oversized wall art and brightly-coloured medical zones can’t hide the functional feel of the place, and the bird-like chatter from the nurses only seems to make the silence in between wards more oppressive.

The floors are polished, but only the edges retain the shine by the end of visiting hours: countless feet have stripped away the surface care.  There are scuffs – from beds, sticks, frames, shoes – gouged into the floor like graffiti on old stone.  It tells the story of the place, but no-one wants to read it.

There is a smell she can’t quite place, like disinfectant with an undertone of gravy from the restaurant.  It comes and goes in waves as the doors around her open and close.  As she nears the right ward and squirts her hands with anti-bacterial gel, she adds a chemical rose to the olfactory experience.

Walking through the ward is like walking past a badly-tuned radio: conversation in waves, bed by bed, with the white noise of beeping machines and blood pressure monitors always in her ears. She looks into each bay, vaguely ashamed of seeing people so vulnerable.  A sleeping stranger kicks his bare foot out of the covers, and she hastily looks away.

Finally, at the end of the marathon, is the finish line: Grandpa’s bed.  She is glad to see he’s sitting next to it: her heart slows down and she takes a careful breath.  This time, she can smell the aftershave she bought at Christmas and wrapped so carefully.

What do you think?  What am I missing, what could be made clearer, what could be enhanced?  This is a first draft and just reading it out loud there are some changes I’d like to make, but they aren’t all about setting…

I enjoyed this exercise, and I might try to create an alternative for next week if there’s limited writing time again – perhaps a father arriving at the delivery suite, or a young nursing student in her first placement. Inevitably there are multiple ways of approaching hospitals as settings because there are multiple reasons to be there; there’s a reason they are the basis of so many tv shows!

I would much prefer to be staying on track but at least this is a way of testing out what I’ve learnt about setting so far.

Until next time,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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