Creative Writing: ONLINE

Creative Writing: ONLINE

Usually we (Johan and Eula) run our creative writing group at The Beehive on Wednesdays 14:30-16:00. Meeting up at DHI isn’t possible at the moment, so we’ve put together some online activities for anyone that’s interested.

What you’ll need: paper, pen/pencil and to sit somewhere you feel safe.

(You don’t need to be ‘creative’, ‘good at writing’ or aiming to write a best-selling novel.)

Week 1: Cleansing Writing

This is a popular writing practice that we use a lot in the group. The aim of the practice is to sit and write anything that you feel/want to let go of. After writing for as long as you feel comfortable, go and destroy the pieces of paper. By destroying the paper, you destroy whatever it was that needed to be expressed…’cleansing’ yourself through writing.

  • In a safe space sit and prepare to write. If you want, you can set yourself a time limit of 10-15 minutes of writing. This may make you feel safer in your writing space.
  • If you have something specific that you know you want to write about, you can start writing about it straight away.
  • If you do not have something specific in mind, then start with writing about simple topics. For example: What you’ve done today/how you’re feeling right now/what you want to do tomorrow etc. After a few minutes of this you will probably find that anything you need to express starts to bubble up. For example: you may start writing about what you had for dinner last night. The topic of dinner might turn into the anger you feel at universal credit because it restricts what you can buy for dinner. Then from this on to anger in general. The anger is what needs to come up and be expressed, and then destroyed and cleared out of your system.
  • Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or how/what you’re writing about. This exercise is just for you and your private space.
  • Stop writing when you want. You don’t have to ‘finish’ or get to a certain point.
  • Some people like to read over what they have written, other people don’t. It’s up to you if you’d like to read it or not.
  • Tear the paper up as much as you can and throw it away as soon as possible, or destroy it in another safe way.
  • It is important that you feel no one else will read what you have written and that you go through the action of watching ‘it’ = ‘the writing’ disappear.

Week 2: Poetry

So over the last week or so, a friend and I have been writing each other little poems about the coronavirus situation, or at least the way us humans have been responding to it. It has been a kind of therapy for us.

So I thought some of you might want to join me in writing some coronavirus related poems. It’s obviously a very serious situation, but sometimes a bit of humour or just doing something creative can go a long way in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Here’s one I did the other day…

To live without bog roll

Hello, is this NHS 111, won’t you help me please?

Went to buy toilet paper, all the packs I could see,

As obviously the wiping of our arses is a human’s most pressing need.

But to my utter shock,

There was none in stock.

Will I have to use my sleeve?

Or the inside of my frock?

Just imagine if you will, what on god’s green earth we’d do,

Without bits of paper to keep by our loos,

We might as well just roll over, and give up right now,

To live without bog roll? I just can’t see how!

You get the gist. Have a go if you’re up for it. I’d love to see what you come up with! Anything is welcome, your poem could be as short or as long as you want. It could be humorous and lighthearted or more serious, it’s up to you. Whatever gives you an outlet, that’s the important thing.

If you are struggling for ideas it might help to use the ‘Haiku’ structure for your poem. A haiku consists of 3 lines and 17 syllables. The first line has 5, the second has 7, and the third has 5 again. Haikus can rhyme, but they don’t have to.

Here is an example:

Self isolation. (5 syllables)

Streets are empty and surreal. (7 syllables)

Let’s keep positive. (5 syllables)

Good luck!

Week 3: Prompts

Have a go at writing something using these prompts:

  • Our situation with the coronavirus is putting a lot of things into perspective. Can you write down and describe 5 things that you have taken for granted in the past that you have really appreciated and been grateful for over the last few weeks?
  • You live on an abandoned island, describe your morning routine.
  • You discovered a brand new planet, what do you see?
  • You wake up this morning with the superpower of your choosing. Describe it and what you will do with it.
  • If you could meet a favourite character from a movie or book, real or fictional, who would you want to meet and why?
  • Write a letter telling someone how they have inspired you.
  • Write about 5 things that make you feel great.
  • If you were given a million pounds but you had to give half of it away, what would you do with the half you gave away, and why?
  • Medical research is finding new ways to prevent and slow down ageing. What if there was a breakthrough that allowed humans to live forever, do you think this is a good or bad thing, and why?
  • Technology is moving very fast, how do you think it will change within the next 50 or 100 years?
  • Open a random book on a random page and choose a random sentence. Then use this sentence as inspiration for a story.
  • Choose a random object, and write a letter to it as if it’s your true love.
  • Your friends had their memory wiped, describe yourself to them.
  • Write a letter to your childhood self/your inner child.

Week 4: Using a photo as inspiration

You could write a poem, song lyrics, a conversation, a short story …anything that takes your fancy.

To help jump-start the creative process you could answer the following questions, using the photo as inspiration.

  • What type of door do the keys open?
  • Why are there cobwebs on the keys? Have the set of keys been left a long time? If so, why?
  • Who do these keys belong to?
  • Who took the picture of the keys?
  • Why did they take the picture?
  • What are the first things that come to mind when you look at this photo?
  • How does this picture make you feel? Intrigued? Bored? Nostalgic? Pensive?
  • Is it important that this photo is in black and white? Do you think this photo would have a different effect if it was in colour? Why?
  • If you were to describe this photo to a blind person how would you do that?
  • Can we learn anything from this photo?
  • Do you like this photo? Why/why not?
  • Your own thoughts/creative responses.

Write for as long as you want.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and your writing. Take your time. If something grows out of this prompt, you can come back to it any time and add to it.

Week 5: Spirit Animals

Many cultures around the world have, at one time, developed the idea that humans have a spirit guide or ‘power animal’. These guides walk with us through our lives, guiding and supporting us. I’ve always been drawn to this concept – both from a spiritual point of view and from a psychological. The thought of a spirit companion is comforting, even if my ‘every-day-mind’ knows it’s very unlikely that such entities exit. My spirit animal changes from time to time and this is usually a direct reflection of changes I’m making in my personal life. So, for example, in early recovery I imagined my spirit animal to be a very thin and haggard stray cat that needed a lot of TLC. Now, during lockdown, I’d like to imagine mine is bird of some sort (probably because I feel caged in and would like to fly free?). A sloth or hibernating mammal of some sort would be a more accurate description of how I actually am at the moment. But, that’s not what my mind created as my spirit animal: I’m a bird – why? What does this bird represent to me at the moment? What does my bird look like? Where does this bird want to fly to? How can I help my bird fly?

Below are some fun quizzes you can do online that tell you what your spirit animal is (I got a mouse on one of them, which I was very, very unhappy about. I’m no mouse - the audacity!)

At first, you can just sit and jot down random things that come to mind. This is just to get you in the flow of writing. Don’t worry about what you are writing/spelling/grammar etc. You could write in bullet points or randomly across the page – whatever is easiest for you.

After a few minutes of this you can bring your attention to thinking about animals. Think about what animal you’d like to be. This gives a good idea as to what your spirit animal is.

  • What animal would you like to be?
  • What does this animal look like?
  • How does this animal behave?
  • How could this animal help you?

After writing about the animal you’d like to be. Stop. Breathe for a moment. Then ask yourself: what animal am I actually? – really? It may not be an animal you like or want. That’s okay. You can explore why you don’t like this animal or why you’d prefer a different one.

  • What animal are you actually?
  • If you have an animal in mind – is this your spirit animal at the moment?
  • If so, what does the animal look like, smell like etc?
  • How does this animal behave?
  • What does this animal eat?
  • Is this animal healthy and strong?

You’ve probably realised that this writing isn’t about the ‘spirit animal’, it’s about you. Sometimes it’s difficult to really look at ourselves and reflect. If we make it about an animal or something ‘other’ than ourselves, it is less threatening.

Continue writing, at your own pace. Let your spirit animal speak to you. What is he/she saying?

Week 6: The alchemy of turning negatives into positives

Alchemy is an ancient scientific practice, often involving attempts to turn cheap, base metals into valuable gold.

During addiction we develop a lot of skills that at the time we may see in a negative light, but that can actually become helpful tools in life when applied in a positive way/in a healthy direction.

Have a think about your own experience, and see if you can come up with a list of 5 things you learnt in addiction, that have in fact turned out to be useful in recovery and in general life.

You could write down the skill/tool, and then underneath it write a small explanation of how it can be applied in a positive way.

For example…

Resilience

To live day to day in active addiction presents many challenges and requires real physical/emotional resilience. I think the phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ could apply here. This resilience can be helpful when we are faced with life’s trials in recovery, and the uncertainty of life.

The ability to organise my time efficiently

In addiction we learn how to navigate complex situations in order to get what we want/need. This ability to focus on the task in hand, organise and manage our time can be useful when applied to life in recovery, work, and social interactions.

See if you can think of some examples of things you learnt whilst going through difficult times, and how these tools can be applied to life in recovery. There can be silver linings to discover in even the most challenging of situations. There are always lessons to be learnt, even though we may not be aware of them straight away. If we went through life without ever making a mistake, we would never learn how to be better people. Perspective is an important thing, and the way we frame things in our minds can have a big impact on our self-esteem, confidence, and general wellbeing/happiness.

Week 7: Writing Prompts

Today we thought it would be fun to work with some writing prompts. A writing ‘prompt’ can be anything from an object, experience, smell, sound, person etc that provides inspiration for a writing piece. You can choose to write in any way that you feel comfortable – a poem, a page of free hand, song lyrics. The idea isn’t so much about writing your best possible work, rather it is to experiment with imagination and creativity.

We thought it could be interesting to create writing prompts that use completely unrelated things. So, for example:

Writing Prompt: Rose, Carpet and a Glass of Water. The idea is that you pen a story or writing piece that includes these three elements. The story, with this example, could be that someone was given a rose, wanted to put it in some water. They didn’t have a vase, so used a glass of water. But on the way to put it on their table, they slipped and spilt it all on their carpet. With this example, you could then expand the story and explore who the person is and who gave them the rose.

The story or writing piece is yours to explore. The only ‘rule’ is you have to include each detail in the writing prompt that you choose.

  • Door knob, an Alpaca and Sea Salt.
  • Sex, a tortoise and photograph.
  • A tattoo, laughter and spaghetti.
  • A green grocer, the vicar’s daughter, your favourite book.
  • Flowers, a thunderstorm, your favourite song.
  • A charity shop, a small child and a green apple.
  • Windows, someone with a pair of green eyes and cows’ milk.
  • Irish dancing, a wedding ring and ‘forgiveness’.
  • A cup of tea, a TV and a dog.
  • Someone famous (anyone you chose), a ‘lucky escape’ and a piece of string.
  • A day out to the zoo, a shipwreck, a bow and arrow.

Week 8: Gratitutde

For this week’s creative writing exercise we thought it would be useful to focus on gratitude. Gratitude is such an important emotion/tool, as it can help us shine new light and perspective on the way we feel, or the situation we find ourselves in.

No matter how difficult things might be, gratitude is always there to remind us of what we DO have.

Writing a gratitude list can be an effective way of shifting our perspective, of seeing things in a new, more positive light. So let’s try writing 5 things that we’re grateful for today. It could be absolutely anything, as simple as giving thanks for a sunny day, for having clothes to wear, or food to eat. Here’s a basic example of 5 things I feel grateful for today:

  1. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining.
  2. I slept well last night.
  3. I have a roof over my head.
  4. There is food in the fridge.
  5. I am grateful for the friends I’ve met in my life.

You might want to try this just one time, and that would be brilliant, but if you’re up for the challenge you could even try and do this at some point each day for the next 7 days. Perhaps first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening. It doesn’t need to take long, just write down the first 5 things that come to mind. Consistently practising gratitude like this can really help us bring on a positive change in the way we see our lives and our current situation. Give it a try and see how you get on.

Week 9: Hope

The following is inspired from ‘Write Yourself Happy: The Art of Positive Journaling’ by Megan C. Hayes PhD (pages 114-149).

Write about a time in the past when you felt hopeful. Perhaps something that went dreadfully wrong, yet you saw the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and kept going. Can you describe what this hope felt like?

Write about a future, or an aspect of your future, that you are hopeful about. What do you feel hopeful about? Why do you think you are hopeful about this particular thing?

Find hope in the present moment. Usually, when we think of ‘hope’, it is future based. See if you can mindfully tune into the present moment. See if you feel glimmers of hope right now. And if you can, describe them.

Write about a person who makes you particularly hopeful. This could be a close relative or a friend – or someone else in recovery.

Write about what hope feels like, looks like, tastes like or smells like. Is hope a seductive shade of silver or a bright and sunny yellow? When you imagine ‘hope’ – what form does it take? Is it alive?

Write about how you could think of hope differently. Focus on how hope can be found in unexpected places and see where this train of thought takes you.

Write about finding hope in your surroundings. Write about how the natural or urban world offers you a sense of hope.

Write about hope in relation to your goals. Try writing generally about your current goals in terms of hopes and aspirations. How does hope play a role in the goals?

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