Creative constraints – By @isabellelj1

By Isabelle Johnson


Creative constraints


Thanks to Caz for a great creative writing workshop last week where we tried out several exercises getting us to think about different ways to approach creative writing. I wanted to reflect on what I’d gained from the workshop.


Words unspoken:


The first things we notice can be the most raw and exciting. We should celebrate raw and honest moments. You should make it sound like you’re talking and as vivid, believable and original as possible. 


Sometimes by describing something it’ll be emotional rather than telling the feeling.


Being concrete is more mysterious.

Describe the cause of things that lead to emotions rather than the emotion itself. Mystery and unanswered thoughts leave us to fill in the blanks.


Writers tend to be good artists because they listen and observe which forms the basis of memory.


Taking into account, our first exercise was to describe a curious image. We honed in on specific and unique details.


There was a room from which a peculiar feeling emanated. The curious atmosphere was subdued yet chaotic. Light filtered through old stained curtains that highlighted the matching taffeta skirts of the carefully dressed women who sat along a wooden bench. Their peculiar ceremonial outfits all matching, their louses carefully fastened around their delicate necks. This sense of formality tinged by the smoke that slowly rose from the lit cigarettes in their slender shy fingers. 



The next exercise was to match every verb matching a negative:


The faces did not match the bodies

The body parts were without a face

There was no light in between what was only just visible

Between the disparate windows, there was no order, only confusion

There were no smiles

There was no laughter 

There was no hope


Adding in constraints forces you to think more about the structure and choice of words.


We were then given an object: mine was a shop mannequin.


We had to describe how it is:


Human-like but not quite. Faint, light, pointed pretty features, no eyeballs, blind. No ability to hear, no ability to speak. White skin with no blemishes. Still, the mannequin never answers back.


And then describe what it is in relation to its owner:


She watches passers-by day in, day out. She looks in the same direction. She stands in the same position. She remains like so until she’s twisted, manipulated, dressed and undressed. She’s completely submissive, at total will of her owner. He separates her body parts and puts them back together. He twists her fingers and her legs around 180 degrees. And he keeps twisting them until they turn all the way back into position. There’s no response. 


Then we described an object without stating what it was.


It sits in the palm of both my hands. It radiates heat. It is comfort and a moment for reflection. It sits in the same spot and had fulfilled the same cycle day in, day out for the past ten years. It sits patiently on the dresser before it is filled with hot liquid, kissed with morning lips, sprayed and engulfed with bubbles then returned to its original spot.


What I wrote is rough and ready, but having to write in time constraints forced us to write more from instinct rather and ‘sight’ rather than what we imagined to be true.


Thanks, Caz.

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