So we are now into August and summer has returned with a heatwave! The slowing down that heat brings can be a good metaphor for approaching our writing with a more patient and relaxed attitude. This week I’m going to set an exercise that is going to be the opposite of what you might imagine. Having spent a few days powering through a huge manuscript, I’m now considering what would the opposite of that look like?
Every writer is different. Some people love to write thousands of words in one sitting (Stephen King), some take months to do a few lines of poetry (Byron probably busy holidaying in Sintra), some take a lot of time thinking and don’t start writing until they’ve thought through exactly what they are doing (Agatha Christie). The fact is you have the balance of what you are comfortable with and what might push you out of that comfort zone. I’ve spent months telling you to sit down and write, now I’m going to suggest you sit and think!
August exercise week 1:
Take a ten minutes for yourself each day. In that ten minutes you are going to do the following –
Take a pen and notepad.
Sit somewhere you are very comfortable, preferably outside or with a view.
For ten minutes think about what you want to write about. This might not bring anything to mind, or lots of things. Don’t focus too hard or worry about your thoughts, just observe them as if they are pictures you’re watching. Once you have an idea for something to write about, consider who the main character is. Is there a beginning, middle – do you have an idea for an ending?
Then you will write one or two sentences on your thoughts like this: (Use as a guide if you like, not if you don’t)
Day 1 – Write one line for the ending of your writing.
2. Who is the character/characters?
3 What happens at the beginning?
4. What is the biggest problem this character might have?
5. Can you imagine the whole story?
6. Write for 5 minutes
After this, if you feel so inclined, write the story you were thinking about all week. How does it feel? How long did it take you to write? Also if you like – don’t write the whole thing, write the first few sentences, or just one line.
How does taking your time and thinking about it change your approach – do you enjoy it? Would love to hear your thoughts!
And now— reading from Liz. An absolutely fab rendition of the Echo/Narcissus story that shows what brilliant inspiration myths and classic stories can be. I hope it inspires others to have a go, it definitely inspires me!
Echo and Narcissus updated by Liz
The Pearson Hotel was a holiday hotel attracting younger people who were looking for beach life, dancing and fun evenings. The hotel was busy and bustling with a complete complement of staff ready to cater for the fully booked summer season. Chloe was a pretty girl who worked happily in the crowded, glitzy bar. She enjoyed the holidaymakers’ banter and the care-free atmosphere all around her. She secretly loved Nathaniel, the hotel cabaret singer and tour guide, who came into the bar in the evenings when he wasn’t working. Nathaniel was stunningly good looking with beautiful blue eyes, jet black hair and a superb physique. The ladies practically swooned when listening to his rendition of popular songs. At the bar Chloe tried to be the one to serve him and to smile at him whilst doing so. She knew his routine and often worked overtime in order to be there when he visited. Most of the young woman were in thrall to Nathaniel and tried to attract his attention.
Nathaniel was a vain, callow, conceited young man with an inflated sense of his own importance. He had a need for constant, excessive attention and admiration, and he was on the hunt and lookout for companions to fill that need, and to exploit. He revelled in the knowledge that the girls and women working in the hotel, and the guest wives and girlfriends too, were constantly jockeying to dance with him or walk and talk with him. He accepted this adulation as his due right.
Rosie, the hotel manager, was smart, astute and good at her job. She always knew what was going on among the staff and the guests. She had employed Nathaniel as an entertainer as he was a superb magnet to draw the young girls and women to the hotel bar, and to the various tours and functions the hotel organised. He was very good for business. However, Rosie knew that at core he was an extremely unpleasant young man, without empathy or sympathy, unable to love anyone other than himself. He had very little sense of humour and had only self-interest at heart, she knew. He flirted and dated whichever young woman was taking his eye at the time, to feed his vanity and self-obsession, but within quite a short time would abruptly end the relationship, leaving a stunned and bewildered young woman in tears, her holiday ruined. Rosie often had to cope with the broken-hearted, distraught girls he brutally discarded. If they were part of the hotel personnel she found them another place at a sister hotel.
Nathaniel looked at Chloe the barmaid one evening as she was rather beautiful, had a certain allure, and an appealing, rather shy demeanour. He made advances to her and she timidly accepted an invitation on her evenings off to have a drink in the bars in the fairy-lit town in which the hotel was based. They enjoyed chatting and Chloe soon became enraptured and transported with love. She continued working in the bar and Nathaniel continued his duties as a singer and tour guide. Nathaniel found if he had Chloe as a companion beside him people looked at them all the more as they made a vividly striking couple. Nathaniel also enjoyed Chloe’s utter devotion and obeisance to him. The relationship continued for two or three months until Nathaniel said smoothly to her one evening, “I think we have enjoyed one another’s society quite long enough now, don’t you? You haven’t been silly enough to think that I would seriously consider spending more time with a barmaid have you?” Thus, true to his nature, Nathaniel cruelly and ruthlessly disposed of Chloe.
Chloe collapsed, completely devastated, deeply stung and humiliated, yet she still tried to meet Nathaniel, piteously clinging onto the hope that he would return to her. She shadowed him, began to lose her sanity, and whenever she was close enough to hear him, started echoing his words. She pined for him to the extent that her health rapidly deteriorated. Nathaniel, confident and blissful in his own beauty continued to spurn her, intensely irritated. Chloe, suffering unrequited love beyond bearing, swallowed a lethal overdose and died.
Rosie was shocked beyond belief. She hadn’t even remotely thought that such a catastrophe could occur. She was horrified and decided it was high time Nathaniel was taught a lesson. He had gone far too far. Chloe had been well liked and people were appalled that Nathaniel could treat her so cheaply. Retribution was direly needed and Rosie decided to be his Nemesis.
Rosie knew Nathaniel often visited the health spa in the hotel to luxuriate in his own reflection in the many mirrors. One day as Nathaniel sat by the pool entranced and besotted with the blue image of himself radiating around in a complete circle, she manipulated one mirror so that it moved, mimicking a live person. Nathaniel, not recognising himself in motion, fell instantly head over heels in love with this person, all reason and logic lost to the four winds. He yearned to be with this beautiful person, but every time he reached out he couldn’t make contact. The image was elusive. Nathaniel visited the pool daily to behold his love. He leaned again and again towards the image, declaring his love pleading ‘love me’, and waited for the desired movement towards him and the reciprocal words of ‘I love you’. He continued doing this for some time, fruitlessly trying to touch or lure the person towards him. He began to suffer the agonising pangs of unrequited love, and eventually, in utter despair, pain and desolation, dove into the deep blue pool to drown. As he plunged he heard Chloe’s voice echoing, “Love me, love me, love me.”