What's it about?

This blog has a very specific purpose: it's a place to post prompts for creative writing during the time of the lockdown. Initially it was for the use of my writing group, as we cannot for the time being meet in person - but I want to open it up to anyone who'd like to have a go at creative writing. I very strongly believe that writing is good for you: while you're writing, you're off somewhere else - you've escaped! And that can only be a good thing during lockdown.

Do sign up to be notified by email when a new prompt is posted - usually on Thursdays - and I would love to hear how you're getting on in the comments. Have fun!

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Picture Post

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is about the French Impressionists. It's very good, but it doesn't have many images of the paintings in it, so this morning I hunted out some little books about the Impressionists that I've had since I was a teenager.

In one of them, I came across this picture. It's called The Balcony Room, and it's by a German painter called Adolf Menzel. It was painted in the second half of the 1840s, so before the French paintings with which we are more familiar.

I've always remembered it, though I had no idea till today where I'd first seen it. I'm not sure what it is about it that was so fascinating; perhaps it's that it's empty of people - there's a sense that someone has just left: perhaps that enables you to fill the space from your own imagination. Or maybe it's the light, the simplicity, the spaciousness of the room. Whtever it is, I still find it evocative.


  • If you'd like to write a story prompted by the picture, ask questions. Where might it be? Who might it belong to? What is happening in their life? (Remember for a story, you probably need this to be a moment when things are changing for the main character - a moment of significance.)

  • Or, choose a different room - one you've known. If it's a room you once knew well, you could draw a quick sketch of it, and brainstorm the memories you associate with it - of people, of things that happened there. Then go in whichever direction you choose - you could write about your memories of the room, or about why it's significant to you. You may wish to start with a description of it.

  • Then again, you could write about a room you've seen, but which isn't part of your personal history. You could write about it, and why it interests you; or you could set a story in it.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

'We are tied to the ocean...'

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came. 

John F. Kennedy

An interesting quote, certainly true in that life began in the sea, and before birth, we are creatures suspended in liquid.

Whatever the reason, I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds the sea endlessly fascinating. In fact, just thinking about it now, I'm really missing it. We lived in the Midlands, almost as far away from the sea as you can get on our island, but every summer we would trek off to Skegness on Sunday school day trips, and later go on our annual week's holiday to Scarborough or Llandudno. I remember watching Mum and Dad in their deckchairs watching the sea go in and out, and wondering why on earth they found it so fascinating - but now I'm just the same. An hour down at Eype in Dorset and I am calm, relaxed, at peace - whatever mood the sea is in: whether it's grey and stormy or blue and tranquil.

Lots of books are set near the sea. Its background music sets the scene; any kind of scene really, because the sea is nothing if not changeable.

So, this week, a memoir, a story, or a poem, featuring the sea in whatever kind of mood you want. You will all have so many associations with/memories of the sea, that even those who aren't keen on mind-maps/spider diagrams might find it helpful to jot some notes down to sift ideas.

And here, to send you on your way, a picture of someone who just loves being beside the sea!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Into the rose-garden...

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind...
                                  Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

(From Four Quartets, by T S Eliot)

It's been a glorious spring, and for obvious reasons we've been confined to home for most of it; so those of us who are fortunate enough to have gardens have probably enjoyed them and observed them more closely than ever before.

Because of that, and because I'm happy to avail myself of any opportunity to quote the above lines (Eliot was write, his words do ech in the mind), I thought this week's task could centre around gardens.

First, read the lines through several times. Read them aloud. You may notice that intially, the poem is about choosing not to go into the garden, but don't let that distract you! For some reason, that choice was significant - what did it lead to? What did it avoid? And now, we are told, there are 'other echoes' - what might they be?

I'd like you to write something inspired, however loosely, by these lines.

  • It can be a poem, a story, a memoir, or a piece of non-fiction writing. It could even be a letter, or a diary entry.
  • It could be about your own garden or one you visited, or one that meant a great deal to you.
  • It could be an imaginary garden.
  • It certainly doesn't have to be a rose-garden!

Gather your ideas first in a mind-map or spider diagram - jot thoughts down, anywhere on a page, and then start to make connections and link relevant ones together. Gradually, an idea will emerge.

The rose garden at Villandry, in France.