That “your writing sucks” conference, then. Look what I did at school today, mum!

Tell you what: let’s jump in at the end, and work backwards.

During the main afternoon session, we were asked to undertake various “automatic writing” exercises:

“…to get words flowing instinctively and creatively, to get us to commit to the written word whilst silencing that inner voice of self-doubt; to appreciate our own intuitive and individual response to words, ideas and stories. Be prepared to write without thinking…”

As someone who struggles with Bloggers’ Block on an all too regular basis, this was a hugely enjoyable, liberating and confidence-boosting way of spending a couple of hours, and there was enormous fun to be had in sharing our efforts with each other.

A couple of examples for you. Following a complex process of word selection which I won’t bother you with, we were tasked with writing a short piece about our four chosen words – mine being Elizabeth, Edinburgh, euphoria, and elbow-pads. However, there was an added, devilish twist: every word in the piece had to begin with the same initial letter as the words selected. And we only had two minutes.

Following a sudden, glorious flash of revelation, this is what I came up with.

‘Ello! Elizabeth ‘ere, entering Edinburgh. Eh, Edinburgh’s effing excellent! Excited? Ecstatic! Eww, embroidered elbow-pads everywhere – entertaining! Easily emptiable, especially erotic… ‘eavenly!

Next, we were charged with composing a short story, containing exactly twenty six words. The twist? Each word had to begin with each consecutive letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. Again, just two minutes. (Or maybe it was three.)

This was my favourite exercise. As my effort works best when read out loud, I’ve recorded the results onto a short MP3, which you can listen to here. Alternatively, you can read the story in the comments box.

Finally, we were divided into pairs and asked to collaborate on another short story, by passing a notepad back and forth between us… but one word at a time, with no conferring. Our workshop leader warned us that this might be a frustrating exercise, with each partner trying to pull the story in different directions. Happily, our team’s experience was quite the opposite. Despite never having met each other before, and despite not discussing what we were going to write in advance, we found ourselves constructing a miniature political satire, with a level of synchronicity that bordered on the spooky. (Mind you, there were a lot of Meaningful Looks.) Here’s what we came up with. (I provided the first word; my partner’s words are in italics.)

Yesterday, David and Tony declared they loved Americans. “We think Americans are gorgeous!” Never hesitating, both men embraced Condoleeza, who visibly cried, clutching them jealously. Government officials confirmed that they had a filthy menage à trois.

If you attended the conference yesterday, then a) hello and welcome to Troubled Diva, and b) if you fancy sharing the fruits of yesterday afternoon’s labours with my lovely and supportive “community” of readers, then please leave them in the comments box below.

I’ll tell you how my talk went a bit later.

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