INSPIRATIONS Starters for Ten Week 1

Welcome to the new Starters for Ten  from K. M. Lockwood. In this first of eight weekly instalments, some reasons for using writing prompts - and a plea . . .

Outside of creative writing courses, it doesn’t seem to be cool to do exercises. Somehow, we’re expected to get going straight away and produce deathless prose. Every. Single. Time.

In any other discipline, warm-ups are most definitely a Thing. You can’t imagine Venus or Serena Williams only playing matches, can you? Or that Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli never did scales?

Chris Priestley's sketchbooks - with thanks to the artist

Our fellow illustrators fill copious sketchbooks to improve their skills – so why not us writers? Let’s try it – ten minutes a day, as many days as possible. There’ll be daily prompts, grouped in loose themes, but they are as flexible as you need them to be. Come back to them again whenever you need a boost.

★ Reasons

Here are a few thoughts on why you might want to engage with this as a routine:

  • Like warm-ups for athletes, bursts of intense, unjudged creative writing get us going.
  • Regular sessions encourage the Muse (metaphorical or not as you wish) to turn up.
  • There’s fun, and freedom, in this practice. Not being meant for publication leaves you free to experiment. The Inner Editor can wait till she’s really needed.
  • Putting pen to paper/ fingers to keyboard/voice to mike shows commitment and keeps the old self-respect going.
  • If you’ve had a break, or you’re editing, it’s a handy way to encourage creativity.
  • There’s only one rule: give it a proper go.

Percy Bysshe Shelley's notebook PD

    ★ Week One Prompts: your first Starters for Ten

    I’m starting with a rather immediate theme: physical sensations. You’ll need a timer and the means to write. If possible, keep your creations together in the same notebook or file. In all cases, use similes, comparisons and metaphors as much or as little as you like. If something triggers a memory, write that too. Just keep on writing – don’t edit!

    1. Find a place where you can be undisturbed for about quarter of an hour. Set your timer for five minutes and listen to everything around you (and if it’s really quiet, perhaps inside you) without writing. Then reset your timer and make a list of as many sounds you can.

    2. Choose a location where it’s OK to touch surfaces (chances are, your home will be best). If you can, try using your feet, your cheek, your back. Maybe sit, lie, lean against. Again, explore for five minutes, and list for ten.

    3. Go to your where you store your clothes (or maybe someone else’s, if that’s possible). Feel the textures for five minutes (anything that’s worn counts - from hats to slippers). How they react to being stroked, how heavy or light are they to hold? List the different physical qualities for ten.

    4. If possible, go into a garden or park for five minutes. (Outside, at any rate.) Make a note of the location, time of day and season/weather. Listen and smell, concentrate on the sensations on your skin. Hunt around for flora – and if you’re lucky, fauna. List for ten (there’s a surprise).

    5. Have another go outside. Same time, different place – or same place. (Later on, you could try varying the season – or the weather might provide a change!) Same drill: observe for five, write non-stop for ten.

    6. Go to a different room – the kitchen often works well or the bathroom. You could try a small shop if that’s feasible for you. This time the focus is on odours. If you can, open cupboards and containers. Sniff closely with your eyes shut. Usual drill.

    7. Special treat time: go and eat/drink – for your art! You don’t have to stick to five minutes experiencing either. If listing tastes doesn’t fill the ten minutes, there are the other things to go at – sounds, smells, textures.

    Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

    ★ Here's the plea:

    We'd love to read YOUR work. 

    If you've successfully used any aspect of Starters for Ten on your blog/website/somewhere on the Internet, then please post a link on the Words & Pictures FB page or tell us on Twitter. We'll tell everyone about your genius (well, as many as we can.).

    Featured image: Pen, Watch, Paper by Eduardo Olszewski via Unsplash 

    K. M. Lockwood writes, reads and edits in The Garret.  
    Once downstairs, she runs a tiny writer-friendly B&B/retreat or wanders off  looking for sea-glass on the Sussex coast.
    Twitter: @lockwoodwriter


    1. Thanks, Philippa, I might try it!

    2. Great ideas, Philippa - I've just had a go at listening! I need these ideas to get me focused when I only have an hour or so. (Lizzie x)


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