The Writers Toolbox & Free Writing II

Another short writing exercise at this week’s writing group drawn from the Writers Tool Box provided here by way of example and because I don’t often get to do creative writing, and when I do I feel like preserving it. Not sure if that is just ego or good/bad writing practice. This blog though, is a place to capture ideas, it’s a sketch book of sorts. So, I have parked the writing here for now.

Rules: take three cards, turn the first over and free write for 3 minutes in response to the cues on the card, be specific in description of objects, things and places. After three minutes turn over the next card and continue the story responding to the cue on the card. Repeat for the third card.

My cards were: Jenny Craig Centre, November in Cincinnati, sound of Henry crying.


The Jenny Craig Centre sat atop a tall jutting rock that peered out into the ocean mist, the bough of a mysterious cutter breaking through the still morning waters. Sunlight edged over the nearby hills, verdant and strewn with woolly mittens, frosty, glistening in the golden rays, chilled under the blue sky, a spring morning singing lark like as it bursts forth blindingly, burning off the sea haze and leaving a salty waft in the air.

It was nothing like November in Cincinnati. Nothing at all, though, it is worth noting that my memory of that time is a hazy as the mist now departing the still seas around the Jenny Craig Centre. The black Mercedes taxi wound its way up the raggedy hedged country lane, bouncing over the potholes, listing around the sharp corners, pausing half in ditches to let others pass downhill towards the chocolate box village that nestled around a smattering of fishing boats, nets hanging from their beams.

In the back of the taxi I could hear the sound of Henry quietly crying. There is not much to say about that. She could see her future ahead clearer than I could see my past. Perhaps her crystal vision would shock me from my slumbers, but I doubted it. The cool sun now risen blessing the green and pleasant land as we rolled into the long driveway, under the gated arch of the Jenney Craig Centre. If anything, Cincinati seemed like a dream, slipping away just as the foggy delirium of sleep creeps away like a ghost at a séance.

Comments from the group: we wonder what the Jenny Craig Centre is.

The Writers Toolbox & Free Writing I

I am part of a writers group, an academic one but we still like to think of ourselves as creatives. We meet irregularly but often and I personally find it a highly productive experience. We usually kick off the writing sessions with a creative exercise followed by a little goal setting and brief discussion with partners. This aims to loosen up our creative ideas and to help us focus on what we are trying to do. then the rest of the day we just write. It is a joy let me tell you.

Anyway, this last writers group we were introduced to the Writers Toolbox, a really useful tool for sparking ideas and for structuring a free writing exercise. I had seen these tool boxes around and often wondered about trying them out in the classroom. Now I have had a goo I will certainly use it. In fact I have just ordered one and will try t out in a week or so when I get a chance.

We used the writers prompts and followed a three stage exercise: the first two sentences had to begin a paragraph and the final one had to end a paragraph (though I go this confused so ended up using it at the start and at the finish. I love free writing, it is amazing what you are capable of when you turn off the filters. This is a conversation I have with students all the time during ideation sessions. Turn off the filters, give yourself permission to be creative and make some time for free writing.

Anyway this is what I came up with and the lines I was given are in blue:

Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something while the nurse tucked in the corder of the bed sheets. A bright morning sun streamed into the room, illuminating the pale walls and blinding us, forcing every bit of life out of the shadows. I hovered over the solitary chair, wondering if I should sit or stand. Distracted by the wink as the last breath eased out of my fathers chest.

Margaret had a habit of spitting, it began to get on my nerves. It shouldn’t have worried me after so long, but it did and every time I heard her hawk it raised my hackles a trifle more.I should have been able to look beyond it. It shouldn’t have mattered, but it did. I still loved her though, we were inseparable, despite the spitting and hawking, despite the endless trail of phlegm that traced our every pathway through our life together.

The way Herb defrosted the refrigerator always left me wondering if the man had been born with an ounce of common sense. It always ended the same way, with a mop and a pail with a pile of defrosted food ready for the bin. Why he couldn’t leave it alone I could never understand. But that was him all over. He was a breath of fresh air, the sun in my life, but please, leave the defrosting to me. The way Herb defrosted the refrigerator, it always made me as mad as hell.

This was written in around 20 minutes, after we read the stories out aloud though I declined as it felt too personal, too emotional. I still feel like that and I doubt if I would have been ale to access that depth of feeling with out the free writing. As I say, you need to turn the filters off and let your deeper mind do the work it wants to do while the chattering of the monkey mind is quite.