Little Writing Distractions

I really enjoy having short writing challenges to turn to when I need a break from a longer piece. Last month I spent a few mornings working on this haiku for the Scotsman Hogmanay Poetry Competition:

Wings brushing wire mesh,
sharp beaks spray seed, pockmark snow
Birdsong in winter

I loved playing around with the words, exploring different sounds and rhythms. I think experimenting with different writing structures every now and again can give you the bit of creative energy you might be missing if you’ve spent a long time working with only one form.

Recently I’ve come across two mini writing challenges I thought I would share with you, in case you also like the occasional distraction. The first is A River of Stones, which I read about on Rachel Fenton’s blog. The idea is to write a “small stone” every day in January, which means taking a moment to observe something in precise detail and capturing what you see in words. The observations that Rachel has made in her stones are beautiful.

The second challenge is Next Best Page, a competition which aims to produce an innovative piece of theatre by uniting 52 different writers in the creation of one script. Every Monday a new page is added and you have until the following Saturday to write and submit the next page. The project will run throughout 2011 and resulting play will be staged in 2012. Page 8 was added today so check it out and see if you’d like to continue the story with your own page 9.

How do you like to take a break from your main writing projects? Are there any mini writing challenges you would like to recommend?


7 thoughts on “Little Writing Distractions

  1. I’ve had a look at Rachel’s blog and the stones writing exercise… that’s curious. I’ve never tried anything like that.

    • Do you think you will try it, William? I think it’s a nice exercise to do yourself, even if you don’t take part in A River of Stones officially. When I was a child I was extremely observant and I feel that I’ve lost that as an adult. This exercise is a way to revive that intense interest in everyday things that children often have.

  2. Helen, thanks so much! I agree; experimenting in different forms has helped me lots. Your haiku is a perfect example of how one moment, all too easily missed or ignored, can be rendered a beautiful piece of art. I think, for me, one of the things I love so much about poetry, and short fiction, is that it can come upon your senses like a painting, the imagery stay with you just the same afterwards, but with added emotional resonance – something a novel takes so long to achieve.

    Next best page looks really interesting, too – I’ll check that out.

    Thanks again.

    • Hi Rachel, My favourite poems are ones where the imagery stays in my head long after I’ve forgotten the words. It’s amazing how short pieces can create such lasting impressions.

      Good luch with Next Best Page, if you decide to give it a go.

  3. The next best page sounds awesome, I’ll have to check it out, even if I don’t sub anything. Will be well interesting to read it all at the end!

    My absolute favourite small writing thing to do is to use a random word generator to get two or three random words (alternatively asking someone to come up with three random words) then making them into a story. It’s amazing what you can come up with. In fact the story I’m about to get published on a chick lit website came from doing exactly that – Woman and Disagreement were my words!

    • Hi newtowritinggirl, We used to do a similar exercise in my old writing group. We would pass a dictionary round and everyone would pick one word at random, then we would have around fifteen minutes to write a piece of flash fiction using all the words (usually there were six). It was usually quite a challenge.

      Great news that your story is going to be published soon. Will you post the link on your blog? I’d like to read it.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Writing Challenge | Helen Caldwell

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