Writing out of control

In my weekly kitchen table writing workshop yesterday, we played with losing control. The idea was to allow the creative “writer within” to have its way instead of fighting it. You know how sometimes your hand writes a word you didn’t intend, and you quickly cross it out or delete it and replace it with the word you meant to use? Or how you sometimes feel outlandish words or sentences wanting to be written and you primly shake your head and send them away? That’s a way of slamming the door on a creative force that might take us in a better direction than we’d planned. At the very worst, it might force us to express what we had planned in a more imaginative way.

During the workshop, I made up some imaginary situations, and then we all wrote for five minutes on what happened next. The rule was that we couldn’t take time to think about it, and we couldn’t cross out anything. After each writing, we read aloud what we’d written. The results ranged from hilarious to deeply moving. When the two hours ended, we were all a bit more willing to trust our uncontrolled writing selves.

If you’d like to play with the idea, here’s a sampling of the initial situations we used:

1. You’re walking down main street in your town, and you notice that a new little tree has been planted beside the walk. Knowing it has to be one that will never grow very large, you step closer to get a better look at it. (Write for 5 minutes on what happens next.)

2. You’re in ancient Egypt, and people are walking by carrying earthen jars. Somebody drops one and it breaks. (Write for 5 minutes on what happens next.)

3. You’re on a forest path going to an appointment you’ve made with somebody you know has an important piece of information for you. You see the person waiting. (Write for 5 minutes on what happens next.)

4. You’re hiking in the mountains and a huge figure steps out in front of you. (Write for 5 minutes on what happens next.)

You can do these things in a group, or just with a writing friend taking turns creating situations. If your inner writer takes a naughty or dark or silly tack, don’t squelch it. Go with whatever you get, and you may find that ideas you first thought were going to be too embarrassing to share actually take you to a lovely place.


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