I much prefer writing in a workshop setting, or with my local writing groups where we all tend to pitch in something by way of a prompt, then give ourselves twenty minutes or so to write while the host makes the tea! But of course, there are times when I can’t attend the workshops or meetings and then I’m left to my own devices.
One thing I’ve found helpful recently are Cat Coule’s writing workshops on You Tube. They tend to follow a set format where you’re guided through a series of short tasks, including making lists, considering the senses, asking yourself questions, writing down memories and wishes etc. These notes are the first stage of your poem. You’re then instructed to use various lines from the notes, but not necessarily in chronological order. Also, you might be asked to combine images from different sections of the notes. For example, one of your lists might be three colours (not primary colours – she encourages you to be poetic – I had verdigris, copper, bronze). Another section might be an object you’ve encountered in a dream, or three things people have said to you in the last 48 hours. However, instead of simply transposing these lines into a poem, you might have to combine them somehow. I can see I had ‘copper stars’ and ‘copper heart’ in my notes at this point. By following her instructions, the writer is forced to deal with a series of disruptions, rather than just transcribe the choicest lines. And something happens when you do this which is akin to the cut-up process I described in my last post. You start making connections and new ideas surface. You’re not asked to use all the sections of your notes, which leaves part of the process open to interpretation. You may want to use everything you wrote, or you may choose to leave things out. Either way, it produces writing with lots of space around it.
So, if you’re stuck for inspiration, you might want to give the workshops a go. Click here for her workshop on writing a love poem, which is just one of many exercises available.
Thank you Cat Coule for keeping me inspired.