Recently I did my second workshop with Sue Cooper. The first was a few years ago and was writing inspired by artefacts in the Yorkshire Museum. This one was called a writers workout and was about getting imaginations going and getting words down on paper.
She had a great selection of exercises to get us thinking and inspired. I had a great time and was sad when I had to leave early because of pain (boo!).
The first exercise was to write for 60 seconds on a word she gave us which was a great way to start the day:
edited for spelling and grammar only
He had stolen her dreams, her heart, her soul when he had left that day. She had always prided herself on being a strong independent woman who was more than her relationship to her man but that day, when he walked out, she realised she had succumb to him. She had let him steal her heart, her soul, her dreams, her hopes.
Her eyes flicked involuntarily to the corpse by the side of the motorway, a badger possibly, she couldn’t let herself look long enough to identify the rotting flesh. Her stomach heaved but she kept driving, eyes straight ahead, heart blocking out the pain.
A Vietnamese hat
A Vietnamese hat hung in the corner of the room, a reminder of a previous life, a time of travel and adventure, a time of excitement now sitting, getting dusty. A relic of another life, a part of her that she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of yet every time she spotted it, she felt her heart sink. She would never again know the unfettered joy of discovering a new place, a new culture, new people, new food, the delight of turning a corner and finding a temple or a beautiful sandy shore. The Vietnamese hat would forever be bittersweet.
We then did an exercise where we wrote down a list of nouns and a list of adjectives and swapped them with someone else (so you have your list of nouns and someone else’s adjectives). We then used the pairs to spark ideas. Some were really interesting; bitter keyhole, skinny bollard, pallid wheelchair… The one I used to write about wasn’t actually that strange:
The yellow pencil
Nostalgia is a remarkable thing, triggered by the most insignificant of things. The yellow pencil that she turned over in her hands rushed her back to primary school, the smell of the electric pencil sharpener grinding the stick to a point. The simple joy of writing on a clean sheet of paper in your best handwriting with the sharpest possible pencil. She remembered sitting there, thinking as hard as a six year old can, she knew that it was important to write something really good on the first page of her new notebook. In the end, she had given in to the pressure and simply put down her name and the date in her finest joined up lettering.
Holding it to her nose, she inhaled the strange smell of graphite and wood shavings and sighed. How many words had it written, this pencil which was now little more than a stump? Perhaps if she had followed her dream of becoming an author, it would have scribbled down notes for a bestseller or ideas for a children’s book. Instead, this particular pencil, had probably scratched out shopping lists, reminders to herself and parents evening dates in her diary.
We did a range of other exercises and talked about what we’d written. all in all an excellent day!