Writing Post Two For Isolated You
Often the hardest thing about creative writing is getting started.
The advice to just pick up a pen or fire up the computer and make a start doesn’t necessarily motivate everyone. If you have ideas swirling inside your head – that one book everybody apparently has in them – perhaps you can just pour thousands of words out, but many people struggle to get that first sentence written.
For those wondering what to write, or needing some direction/inspiration/trigger writing prompts do work, particularly if the prompt isn’t too specific and it triggers an idea or a memory of a person, place, event or an opinion.
Whether the words flow without prompting or you need a nudge, you will always need to go back and redraft, refine and rewrite. However, having a substantial amount of words to edit is always easier and once you have begun, you might even finish!
In the accompanying notes to every lesson, I always added: Polish the work you have written in class and be inspired to write more.
An Object Can Be A Great Writing Prompt
One of the most successful lessons I’ve taught over the years involves asking the students to close their eyes and hold out their hand.
I place a key in each person’s hand and ask them to close their hand, sit quietly with their eyes still closed and concentrate on the key.
- What does it feel like? (cold, metallic, hard, light, shaped, ridged, small, big….?)
- Can they discern the shape and size? (what might it fit – a car, a door, a cash box, a locker…?)
- Have they ever held a similar key? (think about when you use a key and what for?)
After they’ve had a couple of minutes of ruminating, I say, ‘Open your eyes and start writing.’
A small metal instrument specially cut to fit into a lock and move its bolt. (car key, door key, gate key, locker key, letterbox key, suitcase key, money box key, padlock and any of various devices resembling or functioning as a key: eg the key of a clock.
The stories and poems that unfold are completely different – some personal life experiences, others concerning a character or characters.
- Lost and found keys
- forgetting keys or being locked out
- getting a driving licence,
- the customary key to the door (21st or 18th),
- renting or buying a first home,
- getting keys cut
- latch-key kids,
- robbing cash boxes,
- hiding documents,
- clockwork toys,
- hotel stays,
- first or the last worker in a factory or business…
- magic keys
There are stories about the ubiquitous Allen Key, especially in relation to assembling furniture, not mentioning any brand name but Ikea comes to mind:)
Then there are the new keys in use – plastic cards to swipe – no longer turning a key in a keyhole.
In my travels, I’ve encountered plastic card keys in hotels and cabins on ferries. To say they are prone to glitches an understatement!
Writing Exercises If Home Alone
Round up the keys in your house – you may be surprised how many you have – and the variety. (Hint – check out the junk drawer, we all have one!)
Put the keys on the table or in a bowl and close your eyes before choosing one of those keys.
Be inspired and write.
English is a fascinating language. It invites wordplay, puns, ambiguity, hidden meanings, interpretations and misinterpretations. There are similes and antonyms.
A word like KEY can be a noun, a verb and an adjective.
It is a word that works well with other words: keyboard, keyhole, keynote, keypunch, keystroke, keypad, keystone, key card, key signature, key grip, key money, keyhole surgery…
Choose one of these words and write: eg. –
- have you or your character ever had keyhole surgery
- have you or your character ever been a keynote speaker
- have you or character been a key grip on a film set
- have you or character lost your key card?
- do you or your character play a musical keyboard, work in computers…
They say all good stories need CONFLICT – it can be internal or external – make sure you include some.
A key can be a metaphor or representing an abstract concept. Think and write about what can go wrong or how you can work these ideas into a story:
- something that affords a means of access: the key to happiness, the key to spiritual authority
- something that secures or controls entrance to a place: Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean.
- something that affords a means of clarifying a problem: the computer code the key to the puzzle
- a book, pamphlet, or other text containing the solutions or translations of material given elsewhere, as testing exercises.
- a systematic explanation of abbreviations, symbols used in a dictionary, map –pronunciation key, the table or legend of a map
- the system, method, pattern used to decode or decipher a cryptogram, as a codebook, machine setting, or keyword.
- a manually operated lever for opening and closing an electric circuit used to produce signals in telegraphy.
- the keynote or tonic of a scale, tone or pitch, as of voice: to speak in a high key.
- mood or characteristic style, as of expression or thought – He writes in a melancholy key.
- a keystone. in a Masonry project
- Painting – the tonal value and intensity of a colour or range of colours
- a pin, bolt, wedge, or other piece inserted in a hole or space to lock or hold parts of a mechanism or structure together; a cotter.
- a small piece of steel fitting into matching slots of a hub of a wheel or the like and the shaft on which the wheel is mounted so that torque is transmitted from one to the other.
Practice Is Key
- Set a timer for 15 minutes
- Choose a topic and write
- Share what you have written for feedback or at least read it aloud to yourself
- edit and rewrite
- look for a home – there are lots of online and traditional magazines looking for short creative pieces
When I thought about a key, I considered the ritual of winding the grandfather clock in the hallway:
He stands in the hallway
as time ticks away
but he’ll never age,
grow wrinkles or grey
He’s witness to life
his hands carefully mark
the passing of time
the light and the dark.
His voice is a comfort
seductive pendulums sway
A soothing commentary
whether work, sleep or play.
His facial expression
unchanging and bland
just like his demeanour ––
as in hallway he stands.
He’s a constant reminder
Time won’t standstill
even for those who boast
of having time to kill.
My grandfather clock
marks each day’s stage
A comforting fixture
in this Digital Age.
And this meme did the rounds of FB today – there are benefits to isolation or alone time!
2 thoughts on “Could You Use a Key to Unlock Creativity?”
This is wonderful, Mairi, I wonder if someone who takes up their pen thanks to you makes this an opportunity like Isaac Newton’s and writes the novel or poem we’ve all been waiting for.
I’ve tweeted both this one and yesterday’s.
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Thank you Lisa, and yes who knows? The world will certainly be changed after this virus – and among the tragedies it would be lovely to think there are pluses. Xx
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