Don't let hang-ups about grammar or punctuation put you off - writing is good for the soul, and done freely there's no easier way to express yourself...
Writing is for everybody. It’s free. You can do it practically anywhere and you don’t need special equipment. And the amazing thing is that everyone has their own voice or style of writing. Given the same ﬁrst sentence, each person would come up with a completely unique piece of writing. Isn’t that mind-blowing? Introducing a little bit of writing into your day is a great stress reliever. You have to concentrate just on the page, in the moment, putting one word after another, building sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Before you know it, you’ve written hundreds of words, and you can be proud of having created something from nothing. Getting your thoughts down on paper can also help stop them whirring round inside your head. You can express feelings, frustrations, work through sadness or anger, or write down the things you wished you’d said to somebody, all in the privacy of your own notebook.
SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? LET’S GET WRITING… First, why not give yourself a break from screens and pick up a pen or pencil instead? There’s something special about connecting your brain to the movement of your hand and the formation of letters. A very diﬀerent sensation from typing. Dig out that old fountain pen for a change, or use bright felt tips. You don’t even need to write in lines down the page unless you want to. Try spirals, or diagonals. Use tiny writing for a small character, MASSIVE letters for a shouting giant. Play with the words on the page. This isn’t homework to hand in.
BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE… When you’re free writing like this you don’t need to worry about a plot or creating a ‘ﬁnished’ piece. That can all come later if you decide to carry on working on something. You’ll ﬁnd your imagination is ﬁred up by certain exercises and you’ll want to spend more time on them, making them into a poem, story or even a novel. But others may leave you uninspired. That’s ﬁne – move on. Find what works for YOU.
1. MAKE A LIST
You’ll be surprised by how much character can be revealed in a list, or how easily lists can turn into mini-poems or short stories. Give these a try…
TRY THE FOLLOWING PROMPTS TO GET YOU STARTED
- Reasons why the dog is far too clever to be a real dog
- Things to do on a sunny day
- Fantasy bands and their song titles
- What Ellie packed in her suitcase when she ran away
For example, list items in the room of someone you know well to sum up their character, maybe a sibling’s bedroom: ‘It was the half eaten toast, the discarded T-shirt, the worn teddy peeping out from under the pillow…’
2. FIRST LINES
Once upon a time… Yes it’s a cliché, but something about those words and all the stories (and Disney films) absorbed when young can trigger a whole style of writing. Free your inner princess/wicked fairy/ frog and start your story below
Or give one of these a try:
- The dragon came on a Saturday and refused to leave.
- A green box appeared on the doorstep.
- He never expected to like the aliens as much as he did.
- When I am 30 I shall…
- I remember when…
SOME DOS AND DON’TS
- Don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Only YOU are reading it. And you can sort all that out later if you need to.
- Do set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes as a minimum. Keep writing for the whole time without going back and crossing out.
- Don’t listen to the critic on your shoulder. Even the most famous of writers will have that nagging voice saying it’s not good enough/you’ll never ﬁnish it/you’re not a real writer. This happens to everybody so don’t worry about it and banish the inner critic. Be kind to yourself.
- Do look back afterwards at what you’ve written and pick out a sentence with a highlighter pen that stands out to you. Be proud of your writing.
- Don’t expect it to be polished and marvellous at the ﬁrst attempt. The books on your shelf will have been through many drafts and edits. Writing is all about the process.
MORE IDEAS TO KEEP YOU WRITING
- Browse a newspaper or magazine and pick an item that sparks your interest for a story: a turtle that was found 10 kilometres from home; a robot that can read your emotions; a woman rescued from a mountain.
- Close your eyes. Wait for a character to pop into your head. Are they male or female? Age? What are they wearing? Name? What’s in their pocket? What have they lost? What do they need?
- Write up a dream that you remember. If it’s one that scared you, see if you can write a diﬀerent ending.
- Pick three words at random from the dictionary and try to weave them into the same story. How about: Earring, lock, seal. Assassin, gondola, pug. Burn, hoop, typewriter.
- Play music tracks at random and take the ﬁrst line of lyrics you hear as your starting point.
Remember, only YOU can write YOUR story.