Tag Archives: Free writing

Writing the therapeutic journey #7: Point of View

These blog posts are about exploring creative writing as a support for our mental health and our over-all wellbeing.

With some practice and a fair wind, you are writing more freely and uncovering some emotions which you are finding a way of reflecting back on. There is one particular tool in creative writing which I would like to introduce you to: point of view.

Whenever we start to write, we choose a point of view. Will we use ‘I’ in the first person or ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’ in the third person? It is also possible to use the second person ‘you’, addressing the reader directly, though there is always a narrator behind, doing the addressing.

Changing from one point of view to another can often change the sense of distance in a piece. Try it for yourself. Write about something which happened today, a short incident which may have some emotional content for you, using ‘I’. Then re-write it using ‘he’ or ‘she’ as if you are watching yourself going through whatever it was that happened. Finally try using ‘you’, as if you are telling yourself what happened.

A very simple example:
I went for a walk by the sea this morning, the weather was chill against my skin. I thought about other walks I had taken with a good friend who has since left the area and no longer contacts me.

She went for a walk by the sea this morning, the weather was chill against her skin. She thought about other walks she had taken with a good friend who has since left the area and no longer contacts her.

You went for a walk by the sea this morning, the weather was chill against your skin. You thought about other walks you had taken with a good friend who has since left the area and no longer contacts you.

Once you have done this exercise, consider how you felt doing it and how you feel reading the different pieces back. Have you noticed anything? Generally speaking, I find using third person gives me greater distance and using ‘you’ can feel supportive or accusatory. However, this is your writing and your experience, so go with what happens with you.

Another way to use Point of View is to take another person’s perspective. Maybe you have had a recent encounter which has been uncomfortable for you. Try writing it out using ‘I’ – this is your own point of view. Then imagine yourself into the other person’s body, write it out again, also using ‘I’, but really trying to see the exchange through the other person’s eyes and to feel it through their senses and body. Finally, imagine you are an inanimate object – perhaps a clock on the wall – describe what happened using third person. You are now seeing yourself and the other person from a distance, from the outside.

Have you any experiences of using the technique of ‘Point of View’ in this way which you would like to share?

Writing the therapeutic journey #5: Creating a Safe Space

Welcome back to my occasional series on Creative Writing for Wellbeing. Given it’s been a while since I posted, I would urge those who have not already done so, to read the previous posts in the series:

#1 A Part of My Story: https://goo.gl/fZkxfi

#2 Where Are We Headed?:  https://goo.gl/4wy6XC

#3 How to Get Going: https://goo.gl/5exuRx

#4 Where’s the Evidence?: https://goo.gl/QAcfYL

Creative writing for wellbeing has been crucial to my own recovery from depression and to my own wellness and I know (from feedback I get from workshops I run) that it has been useful to others struggling with emotional or physical challenges. However, it is not always an easy path to choose. Creative writing which encourages the tapping into of what lies beneath our every day, conscious thought can lead us into tough places. We may experience emotions which we find difficult or, even, unacceptable. We may see a side of ourselves which is not comfortable to witness. I would say, this is not a journey to embark on unaccompanied, and, for me, talking therapies, has been an important support.

When doing this type of writing, we need, as far as is possible, to take-on a non-judgemental stance, about the writing and the emotions it may evoke. I have already used words such as ‘difficult’ and ‘unacceptable’. Can we, for just a moment, put such judgements aside and accept what comes out onto the paper and into our hearts and minds as ‘what is’?

Judgements are important, we need them to take decisions and to form a moral frame for our actions. However, when pursuing creative writing for wellbeing, judgements can be put to one side for short periods of time. I would add this rider, at the same time as putting aside judgements, we also agree not to act on what we are expressing. The words appear on the page, we feel what we feel, and then we close our writing journal.

 

An Exercise

On this expedition which will take us into unexpected terrain and onto, as yet, unexplored ways, we need a place to retreat to when the going gets rough. Creative writing can assist with this too. Sit or stand comfortably for a few moments, perhaps outside in nature, feeling the ground beneath your feet and the sky above your head. Take some deep breaths and let a vision enter your mind of a place you experience as safe – it could be a real place or an imagined place, or a bit of both. Keep breathing long and slow, as you take a bit of time to investigate this place. Then pick up your pen and write about it in your writing journal.

This first draft may be quite sketchy. But over weeks add to the description, remembering always to engage your five physical senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, texture.

This is an exercise you can repeat and repeat, or return to and embellish, or re-write and copy. You may like to draw images which go with your safe space or collect images (from magazines, photos, from books….) which seem to represent it.

The idea is that this safe space becomes an anchor in your writing journal, and eventually in your imagination, for when the seas become troubled and unpleasant.

What have your experiences of writing for wellbeing been? Any tips for remaining motivated?

Writing the therapeutic journey #4: where’s the evidence?

I have prefaced much of the previous posts with ‘I believe’. This belief comes from my own experience, from working with others through writing, and from reading and studying what others say about writing.

Nicholas Mazza claims a long history for words being seen as healing in the form of prayers, spells, charms. (Poetry Therapy. Theory & Practice. 2003, Routledge, New York & London.) It was James W Pennebaker, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas, who first put the idea that writing might be good for wellbeing to the test. To summarise, he devised an experiment where, over consecutive days, he asked one group of people to write about something emotionally significant, while the other wrote about something mundane. He found the improvement of the wellbeing of those in the first group was experimentally significant, whereas this was not true for the second group. (Further reading at the end of this post.)

Pennebaker called this expressive writing and he gave no guidelines on how people should do it, only that it should be about something which has emotional consequence to them. On analysing the writing which appeared to improve wellbeing, he found three things in common: (1) a feeling was named and expressed; (2) the writer moved from using ‘I’ to using you or she or he or they. In other words they began to gain differing perspectives through their writing; (3) the writer began to structure a narrative, a coherent story.

Expressive writing leaves this to chance, however, creative writing encourages people to develop the tools which means this need not be a question of luck.

Creative writing for wellbeing is not as recognised as art therapy, drama therapy, music therapy and so on, however much of the theory is the same: self-expression leading to reflection, greater understanding, compassion and acceptance. As with all art therapies, working within a group can be useful as the self-expression is witnessed and acknowledged, aiding the sense of being understood and accepted/acceptable.

I would say, however, there are a couple of things which put writing apart from the other art therapies. Firstly, it is a private activity. Even in a group, we can choose when and if to share. Until that moment, whatever is being expressed is between the writer and the page. Secondly, writing is a relatively everyday activity. It is not easy for everyone and many people do come to writing for wellbeing with preconceived ideas (absorbed during school) about what writing should be which can get in the way. On the other hand, for many scribbling words on paper would be more comfortable and straightforward than, for instance, making some music.

In the end, it is for each of us to decide for ourselves what is right for our wellbeing. Creative writing might be a way towards self-expression and reflection which could be useful. It is for you to decide. And as this series of posts goes along, I hope all readers will see each as an invitation. You have a choice to take it up or not. The principals of invitation and choice are very important in this kind of work. As are the words: compassion, respect, kindness – to yourself and your writing. It is what it is, you don’t have to judge it.

I will repeat my health warning:
Don’t go off on your own. Make sure you have support, certainly of those close to you, but also think about seeking a professional therapist or writing therapist to accompany you. What comes out of the writing could be painful, it could be distressing, it could be disappointing, it could be revelatory, it could be full of anger and hate. It could be anything. It is unknown. We need back-up when facing the unknown.

Take some time to get to know the resources listed below and also connect with the national organisation for writing for wellbeing: https://lapidus.org.uk/. Perhaps there is a local group in your area. And the journey continues with the next post.

Resources

James W Pennebaker: https://pennebaker.socialpsychology.org/

Pennebaker, J.W., & Beall, S.K. (1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(3), 274-281.

Smyth, J.M., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2008). Exploring the boundary conditions of expressive writing: In search of the right recipe. British Journal of Health Psychology 13, 1-7.

Pennebaker, J.W. (1997) Opening Up. The healing power of expressing emotions. The Guilford Press: New York.

Bolton, G. (1999). The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London & Philadelphia.

Bolton, G. Field, V, Thompson, K. (Eds) (2006). Writing Works. A resource handbook for therapeutic writing workshops & activities. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London & Philadelphia.

DeSalvo, L. (1999). Writing as a Way of Healing, How telling our stories transforms our lives. The Women’s Press.

Evans, K. (2011). ‘The Chrysalis and the Butterfly: A phenomenological study of one person’s writing journey.’ Journal of Applied Arts & Health 2:2, 173-186.

Hedges, D. (2005) Poetry, Therapy & Emotional Life. Radcliffe Publishing, London & Seattle.

Mazza, N. (2003). Poetry Therapy. Theory & Practice. Routledge, New York & London.

Nicholls, S. (2009). ‘Beyond Expressive Writing: evolving models of developmental creative writing.’ Journal of Health Psychology 14(2), 171-180.

Writing the therapeutic journey #3: how to get going

Let’s be clear, I am not talking about writing which aims at an outcome, for example results in something to share such as a poem, a story, a novel, a piece of drama. This is another branch-line which you could explore (concurrently or at another time). But this writing journey we are taking together is about finding space, giving ourselves permission, shedding the ‘shoulds’, excavating the self.

And as such, I want to issue a health warning. Don’t go off on your own. Make sure you have support, certainly of those close to you, but also think about seeking a professional therapist or writing therapist to accompany you. What comes out of the writing could be painful, it could be distressing, it could be disappointing, it could be revelatory, it could be full of anger and hate. It could be anything. It is unknown. We need back-up when facing the unknown.

Where to start? Begin with a writing journal and a selection of pens (different colours/nibs/ink flow). There maybe some who want to or have to use a keyboard. It’s not my preference, but it could be yours. I think there is a particular connection between the writing brain and moving a pen across the paper.

I was fascinated to hear Japanese calligraphy, Shodo artist, Tomoko Kawao, say: ‘Shodo is said to express the human heart. What you feel in your heart flows through your arm and is expressed on the paper.’ (The Art of Japanese Life: Home, BBC4, 23rd June 2017. Presenter: Dr James Fox. Producer: Jude Ho.) Watch her work at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056qcjq It’s beautiful.

Just as Kawao does, I believe, we can encourage the flow from heart to paper, firstly by a study of the craft of writing and then by letting our hand move freely across the paper as if it were a tentacle of the heart.

Keyboards for me are about thinking not feeling, they are too regimented, with a pen and paper I can let words become big, small, messy, neat, unreadable. With pen and paper I can doodle, the words can go off in all sorts of directions, they don’t have to stay in straight lines. If you think you don’t want to use pen and paper, try it for a week and then make your decision.

Choose a writing journal which appeals to you. Make it something which you know will be totally private and no-one else will read. I would choose plain and thickish paper which can absorb all manner of inks and pressure from pens.

Then set aside fifteen minutes a day for a couple of weeks and begin….

Here are three tips for beginning:

(1) Free writing

Natalie Goldberg in her seminal work Writing Down the Bones, gives the following ‘rules’ for free writing:

  •    Keep to a time limit*.
  •   Keep your hand moving.
  •   Don’t cross out.
  •   Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.
  •   Lose control.
  •   Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
  •   Go for the jugular (if something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy)

* I would suggest initially three minutes, working up to five or ten.

The aim is to ‘burn through to first thoughts … to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel’, to ‘explore the rugged edge of thought.’ This does take practice and may initially go against your writing instinct.

(Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones. Freeing the Writer Within. Shambhala, Boston and London, 1986. Page 8/9.)

It sometimes helps to have things to kick-start some free writing. How about: looking at a postcard; reading a poem; taking a walk; listening to some music (I find instrumentals or songs in a language I can’t understand work best); doing a dance; taking a stone off the beach; walking round an art gallery; sitting in a park; collecting some scraps of material or buttons… The possibilities are endless.

(2) Using all your senses

We have five physical senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing. We generally naturally lean towards one sense as opposed to another. Get used to noticing all your senses. If you’re more used to taking into account sights, become interested in smells or sounds for a day. Then write for your fifteen minutes. Imagine what it might like to lose one sense or have one sense accentuated. Then write for your fifteen minutes. Look into an image on a postcard, imagine yourself in it, what would you be seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting? What textures would there be? Write for your fifteen minutes.

(3) The morning pages

This is an idea which comes from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She suggests writing three pages every morning in a writing journal, trying to capture that moment between sleeping and being properly awake.

This might suit you. Or you might want to do your writing at another time of day. Whatever, try to keep up fifteen minutes a day for two weeks. Do not re-read what you have written, do not edit or re-write. Leave it to ferment in your writing journal.

After two weeks, take 30 minutes to consider what you have done. During this 30 minutes, remember some key words – compassion, respect, kindness – to yourself and your writing. It is what it is, you don’t have to judge it. Skim over what you have done, see if there is anything you might want to underline because it is interesting. Notice your feelings. Notice any resistances to writing and re-reading it. Notice your attitude to taking time for yourself. Write for fifteen minutes starting with the words: ‘About my writing, I notice….’

For more suggestions on working reflexively with creative writing, see Thompson in Bolton, G., Howlett, S., Lago, C. & Wright J. K. (2004). Writing Cures. An introductory handbook of writing in counselling and therapy. Hove & New York: Brunner-Routledge.

You’ve spent three-and-a half hours writing over the last two weeks. Do you want to continue with your writing journal and journey? If so, maybe you want to join me for the next posts on Writing the therapeutic journey.

Writing the therapeutic journey #1: a part of my story

Anniversaries are interesting things. As human beings we seem fascinated by them. I suppose they give a focal point for remembering, for reflection, for noticing the years are passing (on their inevitable march towards our demise), for coming together, for apology, for celebration…

One anniversary is knocking on the door of my consciousness: it is four months since my final therapy session (ever? I doubt I would ever claim that.) Four months ago, after a period of seventeen years of regular therapy, I stopped having sessions with my current therapist.

I would not claim to be ‘sorted’. I consider that I live with depression rather than I am ‘cured’ of it. I do recognise that I am much more resilient emotionally and psychologically. I feel more comfortable with who I am, I accept more readily my vulnerabilities and failings. I understand how my history continues to intrude into my today. I feel joy and the support of others. The word journey is probably much over-used, but it fits here, it has been a long, challenging, difficult, fascinating, enriching journey.

I take up my battered Pocket Oxford Dictionary with its loose and thumbed pages. ‘Journey’: to travel, expedition, voyage. From the French ‘journee’ meaning day. Connected (importantly for me) to ‘journal’ (more on that later).

I have had three therapists over the years. I miss all of them in different ways for what they brought with them to sustain me and my journey. I certainly miss my most recent therapist, Annie, some days more than others.

There are two important legacies bequeathed by my therapists. Firstly, the space they (we) created together in which it was okay to examine me, my story, my life. Finlay calls this the ‘between’ ‘The mysterious intersubjective space between, where we touch and are touched by the Other in multiple, often unseen ways…’ (Page 3. Linda Finlay, Relational Integrative Psychotherapy, engaging process and theory in practice. Wiley Blackwell. 2016.)

I like the Dixie Chick’s definition:

‘When the calls and conversations
Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind

Buses, cars, and airplanes leaving
Burning fumes of gasoline
And everyone is running
And I come to find a refuge in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me’

                                                     Easy Silence, Dixie Chicks

Though in truth, rather than keep it at bay, the ‘easy silence’ allowed me to examine my world, without becoming totally overwhelmed by it.

The second legacy is that my therapists’ words, their ways of being, have stayed with me. They are a gentle and nourishing counter-balance to my own tendencies to self-criticism and towards self-annihilation. Tendencies which can sometimes become augmented by the attitudes of others and events. I have left my therapists, but they do not leave me.

There are other significant things which have brought me to where I am. Good support from my husband, my sister and friends. A healthy diet, exercise and yoga. Making more of a connection with nature. And last, though certainly not least, writing and my writing journal. Having reached this particular way-station, I thought I might return to my continuing passion: writing for wellbeing. On this blog, over the coming weeks/months, I will explore ideas around the connection between writing and wellbeing. I hope there will be readers who will want to join me on this particular branch line.

7 Prompts for Writers #7: Poetry

Poets and readers of poetry will spend endless amounts of time arguing about what is poetry. For some, a poem is not a poem unless it rhymes and sticks to a strict rhythmic pattern. I happen to disagree with this stance. A poem can be hung together around the sounds of words, a metaphor or a shape on the page, for instance. Personally, I think there is much more cross-over between prose and poetry than some traditionalists might want to admit, for me it is a continuum.

There are some great definitions of what poetry is in The Bloodaxe Book of Poetry Quotations (edited Dennis O’Driscoll, 2006). However, I would struggle to say why they don’t apply to prose. I like Stephen Dobyns’ introduction in Best Words, Best Order:

‘I believe that a poem is an emotional-intellectual-physical construct that is meant to touch the heart of the reader, that is meant to be re-experienced by the reader. I believe that a poem is a window that hangs between two or more human beings who otherwise live in darkened rooms. I also believe that a poem is a noise and that noise is shaped. A poem is not natural speech, it is artificial speech.’ (Page xii, 2003).

On the other hand, could we not also say prose is a construct, meant to reach a reader? A window between people? A noise shaped into a narrative and to a page? We all know when we sit down with a book what we have in our hands is a series of squiggles on a page we have agreed to understand as a language with meaning. It is the business of all writers – whether prose or poetry – to use those words in such a way that the reader forgets the artifice and accepts to enter (with head and heart) into another world, a world we co-construct together.

I would argue, therefore, that prompts I’ve advocated previously – especially use of a writing journal, free writing, using all the senses and taking note of our own experiences/feelings within our own bodies – are equally prompts for those intending on writing poetry.

A poem is a conversation between people

All writers should be avid readers. We learn so much about our art and craft by studying others. Just as an art student visits galleries or a music student attends concerts. To write poetry read poetry and plenty of contemporary poetry – there are many anthologies in our beleaguered libraries, use them before they disappear or borrow unashamed-ably from friends.

Now here’s something to try. Find one line from a poem you like. Write it down in the middle of a page. For three minutes, write quite freely your own words and phrases around it. Then re-write the line on another piece of paper. Study it, read it out loud, notice the rhythms and patterns made by the words. Ruth Padel’s 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem (2002) is a good guide in this regard. Now start with a clean page. Using your own words which you noted in the first three minutes, see if you can echo in some way the sound or the timbre of the original line you picked. Put it in a drawer. Take it out five weeks later and read it out loud. If you are still pleased with it, share it with others.

 

 

7 prompts for wrtiers #4: voice

Another Place by Antony Gormley

Voice is an interesting aspect to writing – at least I find it so. I think of it in two ways. First, there is the writer’s voice. The often difficult-to pin-down ‘something’ which means when we pick up a book we know it is by a particular author (and not only because that author’s name is on the front cover). Secondly, there are the various (and hopefully variable) voices the writer might choose to take on to create, for instance, a character or a tone for a poem.

It might be easier to compare it to actors. There are actors who have a very strong and defined presence – perhaps Michael Cain is an example – and this comes through in any part they play. Then there are actors who appear to morph into different roles. I remember seeing Daniel Day Lewis in three films in a single year – one being My Left Foot – and I would not have been able to say it was the same actor playing the main protagonist in each, his portrayals were so varied. The writer’s voice is part Michael Cain and part Daniel Day Lewis.

So let’s initially look at the Michael Cain aspect of a writer’s voice. I believe it might take a time for a writer to hit upon their voice and this voice – much as with our natural voice – may change over our writing life. I think mine has become more confident, perhaps more measured, less anxious about its nature – which is (I have gathered from feedback) fairly slow, poetic, discursive.

How to nourish this part of the writer’s voice? Write, lots, as freely as you can, bringing you to what you actually want to write, and not what you feel you ought to write. I follow the methods of Julia Cameron (morning pages – thought I rarely do them in the morning – in her book The Artist’s Way) and Nathalie Goldberg (in her book Writing Down the Bones).

The aim of free writing, says Nathalie Goldberg, is to ‘burn through to first thoughts … to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel’, to ‘explore the rugged edge of thought.’ This does take practice and may initially go against our writing instinct.

One thing which certainly squashes the Michael Cain part of our writer’s voice, is criticism (or fear of it) too early in the process, too often and when it is overly or overwhelmingly negative.

Then there is the Daniel Day Lewis aspect. Where does this come from? It comes from listening. Listening to other people: to their use of language, to the cadence of their voice. And from watching, observing their body language. We can also research voices: through interviewing people, through oral history projects and archives. I recently went to the wonderful national centre for the written word in South Shields (http://theworduk.org/visit-us/) where they are collecting examples of dialect both written and spoken. What a great resource.

We do not want all our characters, or poems, to have our voice, so, as writers, we must develop attentive listening skills. Then, once we have done our writing, we must read it out and listen again, to ensure we have captured what we hoped to. I have found the recording function on my computer useful for this, so I can read out and then listen back to my writing.

Writing exercise: take yourself to a local café on your own and choose a corner table. Have a listen. Have a go at reproducing the voices you hear around you in your writing. Or interview someone who has a very different upbringing/background to yourself. Choose parts to transcribe. Notice the use of language. How would you describe the unique cadences in your writing?

What are your thoughts on your writer’s voice?

 

7 prompts for writers #3: characterisation

conversationAPJune15

Another Place, sculpture by Anthony Gormley

I find the idea for a character in a story can come from anywhere. It might be someone glimpsed on the street or a snatch of conversation overheard or from a piece in the newspaper. Even if the character is inspired by someone I ‘know’, then I will still only be aware of the part of themselves they choose to share, perhaps only the surface.

Characters in stories, especially novels, have to have layers, they have to have conflicts, they have to have textures, and it is the writer’s task to add them. To literally add flesh, bone, blood, soul and mind to a notion of a person.

I live with depression, I have had therapy over a number of years and I trained as a counsellor. I have, therefore, spent some time considering the human condition. I do think this assists in creating characters which live and breathe off the page.

On any creative writing course, we are told ‘show don’t tell’. In other words, if a character is sad, show what this looks like rather than tell the reader, Frank is sad. I would also add, the showing should really be more about inviting the reader to feel the sadness. And to do this, the writer has to get inside the body – their own as well as their character’s.

Our bodies feel our emotions before we can name them. Yet we cannot use this knowledge of the body in our writing unless we allow ourselves to inhabit our own bodies fully. As writers, the danger is we will spend too much time in our heads. As people in contemporary society, we might spend too much time distracted by the whirl of life: phones, adverts, noise, chatter…. In either case, we will miss the vital understandings brought to us by our bodies.

My way into my body is mindful walking (I have written about this: https://mslexia.co.uk/long-distance-writer-3-meandering/). Though yoga comes a close second and I am sure you will findboots your own way towards body awareness. Notice and take notes in your writing journal of how your body reacts to emotions and environments.

However, while you are creating and layering your characters, take this a step further. Imagine yourself into your character’s body. Walk as they would. Ask yourself, how would they feel afraid? Or sad? Or love? Notice and make notes in your writing journal.

Finally, you could also interview others. Ask them how they experience their body? What happens in their body when they feel a particular emotion? You may be surprised, and inspired.

What is your tip for creating layered characters?

7 Prompts for Writers #2

st-marys-lighthousefeb17

This week we went to Whitley Bay. On a grey, blustery morning we scrambled our way to St Mary’s Lighthouse. The causeway was open, so we walked over. The place appeared deserted. My first thought: what a great setting for a novel, especially a murder mystery.

A place can be a great starting point for writing. I am fan of Julia Cameron The Artist’s Way. In it she suggests taking regular ‘artist’s dates’. These are day trips to places to gain inspiration. I would echo Cameron in saying these should be dates with yourself – don’t take anyone else, unless they are also writers and/or know how to be quiet. Endless chatter will get in the way of imagination.

Places abound in stories. When was a place established? By whom? Who were the designers? Who the builders? Who lived there? Are there any connections with historical events? Who lives thereabouts now? How do present conditions compare with those of the past? What about the future? What wildlife is around? What is the landscape like? How has this all changed over time? And so on, I am sure you can supply other pertinent questions to get you going.

Try making notes in situ and remember to evoke all the senses – smell, sight, sound, touch and taste.

What is your favourite place to visit as a writer? Have you been inspired to write a story by visiting somewhere?

#1 A Photograph

Writers can take inspiration from anywhere. Look at a photograph and imagine you are inside the image: write about what you can see, smell, taste, feel, hear. Then imagine you are something (not a person) within the photograph and write from that point of view using the first person ‘I’. As that ‘I’ what are you: feeling inside; thinking; hoping for; scared of; frustrated by? Take no more than 20 minutes to do this. Then see if you can distill down what you have written to five lines.

Here is a photograph. If you want, you can post your five lines to me via a comments box. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

signposts