Write towards the discomfort
A very simple act of reversal: conventionally we might begin a writing exercise with a prompt given to us and write from there- I want to do something slightly different.
We write best when we’re uncomfortable (a notion I much prefer to that idea that you have to be unhappy to write well, which is nonsense). This could mean something as simple as pushing yourself to write in a form you’re uncomfortable with, or using a strict rhyme structure when you’re used to writing with more freedom. That discomfort you feel gives the writing a new energy, a tension that makes the words vibrate on the page.
The way I measure my own work is, if I’ve written something that I know I wouldn’t want to show my mum then I must be on to something, I must be approaching that zone of discomfort which I think can be so fruitful.
But it’s too simple to make that discomfort the subject of your work, to give yourself an uncomfortable title or prompt and write from there.
So: Get a blank piece of paper, sit yourself down wherever it is you normally write- think the thought that makes you uncomfortable, about yourself, about someone else, about your writing, about your life, the thing that lodges itself at the back of your brain, and holds fast there, at 1am or 2am or sometimes all through the night. We all have that thing, and if it’s there all the time it seems to me to be worth confronting it.
(n.b: as I said before, this thing that makes you uncomfortable needn’t be some shocking confession, it might just be that writing a pantoum would make you uncomfortable…)
So, sit yourself down, and whatever the thing is that you’ve conjured up, write it on the very bottom of your blank piece of paper. Now, write towards it. Not about it, not reimagining it, not confronting it but, holding that word or phrase at the very bottom of your page, write towards the discomfort, and trust yourself enough to let the writing go where it wants to.Find out more
Once, when I was reading a Selima Hill collection, I noticed that she’d used an epigraph by the…Find out more
Veiling the Narrative
Stories are one of the ways we have to make sense of the world. I’m interested not just…Find out more
Reconsider the mundane
Think of a hobby or passion you have, outside of writing and literature. So perhaps baking, or dancing,…Find out more
Rupture the mundane
I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but having the perfect thing to write about isn’t actually enough;…Find out more
1. Choose a word or short phrase which is the subject of the poem you wish to explore….Find out more
I’m interested in what happens when we alter or challenge the ‘conventional’ way of writing poetry – by…Find out more
Write the Family
I’m sure most writers are familiar with the writing adage ‘write what you know’, and writing about your…Find out more
It’s All In The Name
Our names – first names, surnames, maiden names, nicknames – carry all kinds of significance and are a…Find out more
Playing at families
Many years ago I wrote a poem called ‘Playing at Families’ in which I imagined that my parents…Find out more
‘New experiences’ are often cited as creative fuel but let’s face it, life can be repetitive, most of…Find out more
Break your lines
Do read Ann and Peters writing tip first that goes with this exercise: http://www.arvon.org/arvon-friends/writing-tips-exercises/blank-verse/ Have a look at…Find out more