What a fantastic morning! Nine creative writers turned up for our first session at the College of North West London.
We started with an introductory activity, taken from Sue Lee Kerr’s book Creative Writing: the Quick Matrix, in which each person interviewed their partner about their passions and their writing history. Then we had a feedback session. I think we were all amazed at how interesting and talented everyone was. Writing experiences ranged from want to write a children’s book but didn’t know where to begin to academic writers through to writers for church plays and poetry sessions. Who knew our small college housed so much writing talent.
The second task was a word association(bubble) task. I put up a word on the whiteboard and the students suggested related words and ideas. Then, they chose one of the words from a list I gave them to brainstorm connections and associations. I handed out egg timers with the instruction that they had three turns of the timer to do the task. People scribbled furiously and soon papers were filled with words.
The writing task was to take a word or an idea to produce some kind of text over 30 minutes. The room went quiet as they wrote furiously. At the end of the allotted time, writers volunteered to read their WIP. Some chose not to but that was fine. What interesting work they produced – life stories, a short story, children’s stories and a polemic.
We had a little discussion at the end and it seems we might meet again to do some creative writing.
I was on a training course a few days ago and the trainer introduced the group to a writing concept called “Slow writing.” I had come across a version of this on my advanced writing course with Barbara Marsh so it was interesting to see how it originated and how to actually set it up.
Slow writing is about taking the time to think about writing. The writer is given (or self imposes) a topic to write about. Then there are constraints built into the writing. A constraint could be not using a particular letter of the alphabet or not using a particular word e.g. and. Then there are slow writing activities in which the writer must follow certain rules e.g. The writing must begin with a question. There can be up to seven rules involved.
Once the rules are explained to the writing group then the writers can get on with the process of writing within the time limit. This technique allows the writers to produce a “stream of consciousness” but to have certain limitations or constraints on it.
When the time is up, then the writers go back over their text. There could be a further set of instructions here e.g. add commas, change all verbs into the present perfect and so on.
At the end of the writing exercise the writers will have had the chance to write and rewrite their text. It could make the editing process of “free writing” less painful.
I have tried it out on some of my students and it certainly does help them to rework their writing.
There are a couple of useful website for anyone interested in using the technique with writing groups:
The Triptico site allows the registered user to create interactive activities and many colleagues recommend it as a teaching resource.