Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Workshop Freewrites [1]

It just occurred to me that I run dozens of workshops every year and I - as a rule - participate in the exercises that I use but rarely go back to them. Well, I've decided to share them: short summaries of the exercises, followed by my output - mostly terrible, but, I guess, they show what writing evolves from.

Exercise: The alphabet stop - I ask someone to say the alphabet in their head and another to stop them, whatever letter is the 'STOP' letter becomes the first letter of words contributed by everyone in the workshop. In this case, the letter was 'T' and the task was to use all the words that came up in two and a half minutes, which, I can assure you is both too little and too much. I don't think I need to mark out the 'T' words, but the aim of the exercise is to force the writer to manoeuvre around an odd selection of words and still deliver something close to a coherent narrative. The result is often odd, but often contains an exquisite seed of quirky brilliance that can form the basis of a more crafted piece of work. I first used this in 2003, partly inspired by an exercise used by fellow poet, Ainsley Burrows.

The temptation the tell the truth fades any time his vanity reigns triumphant; he wants to express his love, but it's torture for him to lose control and let her know. Tonight, like every other, ten out of ten thoughts are about her and his timidity, his tenacity to his independence, is stretching their togetherness taut as a trampoline; with every new trial she tolerates him less and with time he fears she'll see him as a thing that just came to steal her love today to boast about it tomorrow. He wants her to know it's not that way, but every time he tries to talk he tastes his fear and his treacherous pride traces the contours of his face into a tranquil expression that transfers none of his true thoughts to the tunnels of her tympanum.

Tonight, especially, he feels his foolishness tug at him, a tempestuous thing that trifles with him, transports his words away like a tsunami sweeper until he's standing in front of her - thirty years old, in trendy threads, fiddling with his dreads, trying to tell her he loves her, but sounding like a character from Toonami, like Taz, knowing she'll probably touch and go...

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