At the Writers Circle last week, after we'd read out our prepared pieces and heard other members' comments, we tried an exercise that frightens many people. Not just people; it frightens writers, though it shouldn't.
It starts with a prompt of some kind, something to spark the imagination. It could be just a word, a phrase or a quotation. You might get to choose a picture, or be given a character and a situation.
It demands that you write quickly because time is limited.
It demands that you write freely, uninhibited by thoughts of whether it's good or bad, explains itself perfectly or merely suggests possibilities, is fit for publication or only fit for the rubbish bin. (No, make that the recycle bin, because a writer should never throw anything away.)
Why does it send shivers through the spines of so many writers? Because in a very real way it takes away their control over their material, allows the subconscious to take over. You see appear on the paper under your pen or the screen in front of your eyes, words and phrases you didn't think about using. You didn't think; that's what's important.
That's what makes free-writing such a fantastic exercise. Often those phrases and words and sentences are more appropriate than you first thought - or with a little editing can be made so. The point is they don't have to be perfect right there and then; nobody's going to criticise it. It's only an exercise. You're practising. You're flexing your writing muscles in a different way.
I do believe my enthusiasms are showing. I'll roll them up and put them away and show you what I wrote last week.
The prompts I was given were a quotation from Oscar Wilde: "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." and the cover of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" with an illustration showing a phoenix in the flames.
I wrote this:
Like a phoenix aflame, the lust for life
Flares, bares itself, scorns a danger
That dares discovery, flaunting itself,
Living to fullness again.
In the dull mind, dull thoughts drift,
Muddied, sluggish and satisfied.
No danger here, no shiver
Of sudden fear, only the torpor
Of nothingness, of mind death.
I may make something of it one day.