Clearing some space: a creative writing exercise


Write down (in five minutes or so for each topic) what you know about:

1. Garden furniture
2. Marilyn Monroe
3. The Earth’s core
4. Eagles
5. Fireworks

This exercise was brought to you from page 18 of The Creative Writing Coursebook edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs. I used the timer on my mobile phone to time 5 minutes for each topic. Here are my scribblings:

1. Garden furniture

It comes in plastic, wood or metal and is not particularly comfy. Dark green seems to be a favoured colour in the plastic variety, along with white. My Grandma had a swingseat which we used to swing violently when we were kids. Not so much as adults. My Mum has a swingseat in her garden now. Funny how these things get passed on… customs, traditions, family ways of being, like memes that get stuck in a groove. I ran away from all that and I still do even as I wish for closeness with my family. Their ways still puzzle me. It’s strange. I feel as though I am a strange bird ended up in the wrong nest. Why is that? Why am I so different?

2. Marilyn Monroe

She was a bombshell. She acted dumb. But she was smart. Before she died she headed her own production company. She played dumb to get the collateral she needed, because it’s a man’s world. Still. She was beautiful. Womanly. A size fourteen at least. Curvy, not skinny like a starving waif. But she was unhappy. How much of that was her childhood and how much of it was about her present: a white, male world that dictates deadlines. I admire her. She knew how to work a room even though it must have disheartened her to do it. She used an acting coach and sometimes she re-did a scene because she wasn’t happy with her performance. A perfectionist.

3. The Earth’s core

It’s hot. Hotter than the sun. Molten in the middle, its heat radiates out. It cannot be touched by human hand or even approached. You’d fry long before you got close. There is no journey to the centre of the earth but we can go around it. It’s strange that something so lethal should provide an environment for abundant life. And beautiful. And weird. It’s metal. Molten metal. I imagine a perfectly round ball bearing but many times bigger. It has a part to play in keeping us on our trajectory around the sun and as it travels through space it creates such pressure that steam and magma and rock must be released in the form of earthquakes and volcanic disturbances.

4. Eagles

Eagles are beautiful, flying creatures with sharp beaks and claws that catch small mammals and tear them apart before eating them. They build nests in tall trees with a mate and while one guards the nest the other hunts. Hardly ever do they spend time in the nest together. Their view is beautiful and sharp. Their eyes hunt coldly. Their beaks stay efficiently shut until needed. These birds are majestic yet deadly serious. Do they ever laugh? I’d like to see a laughing eagle. They soar and swoop through mist and rain or

5. Fireworks

Bang! Swoosh! Wheeeee! Pffft! Fireworks are loud, fast bright displays of opulence. Over quickly yet filling the air with mist they remain an effect in the mind for a long time. Made from gunpowder they are dangerous and can blind you if handled incorrectly. They are for family celebrations, royal jubilees and New Year’s Eve. They smack of togetherness and beg for your ooohs and aaahs. They are sad for lonely people. Some fireworks sparkle, some crackle and some shoot straight up and appear to go out before exploding with a massive bang that shocks the ears. Some are intended for use on the floor: firecrackers. Some for your hand.

The idea behind this exercise is to uncover some personal stories that you might like to write about in more depth. Mine are:

1. Strange bird
2. Curvy woman
3. Lethal environment
4. Laughing eagle
5. Diwali

What are yours?


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