Writing Workout (90min bedtime/morning) – Honesty vs. Truth

Todays workout is a bit unorthodox, I had a really intense weekend starting with a good friends memorial at a church I find quiet traumatic to be in and and ending with a two day carnival extravaganza with a bigger crew of people I love than ever before. It was a very intense journey and as a result yesterday I felt quiet vacuous and unsure what to do with myself, before bed I found myself knowing I needed to write but reluctant to do so aka YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO WRITE DEBORAH.

So I sat at my hilariously cluttered desk (covered in the various things I have thrown at it whilst running in and out the house this weekend) and just:

1. Wrote freely, honestly and without a care for sense of fact but instead honestly for as long as I needed to. No timer, though I imagine it was 10ish minutes till it felt like I had got what I needed to get out from my system. Then, went to sleep. 

2. When I woke up I set aside an hour (though it became 90minutes) to work wha tI had written into a draft of something, I won’t post the drafts because there is a lot of very sensitive personal information there but this really actually became the theme of the editing process. I wanted the piece to be truthful but I was conscious there were facts in there I either wasn’t comfortable sharing or it felt unnecessarily exposing of others to post. Here are some editing techniques I used to try and find the truth in chronological order… 

  • Expand on all imagery, colours, tastes, smells, textures.
  • Edit into 4 line stanza’s and each line must contain a unit of meaning that can stand a lone, as must each stanza.
  • Cut savagely – what is only working on one dimension?
  • Cut savagely – what in here are you not comfortable sharing, if not, why and how can this transpire in an image, smell, taste, be woven into an existing metaphor?
  • Step back, be a reader that knows nothing of this story and imaging the images/ sensory experiences of the piece as you read it- what can you cut, what doesn’t make sense, what can be compressed? + F*** the formal lineation and try something that feels more instinctive from the questions above.

 

This is what I was left with…

 

We Have Lost This Year

For Rob Anker and everyone else lost, 2017

 

Listen kids, love is a big red balloon, sadness is a small blue balloon

And happiness is a bouncy yellow balloon, etc. Simple, pure,

 

swiftly deflating and annoyingly easy to burst. In the grounds of a church

that held its own spire to my neck. Hundreds of us holding these hesitant orbs,

Will they float when we let go? I’ve written so much about him on the tags at the bottom.

 

My mum tells a horrendous story about two lesbians finding god

and getting a divorce, so they can live the law of chastity, because

they felt the hands of god (around their throats) I said I had never felt the hands of god

and she said but we know why that is, LOOK IT’S A MASSIVE MUSHROOM,

 

A BRACKET OR BEEF MUSHROOM YOU CAN EAT THOSE

and dad said he will have to take mums word for it.

So, we all stand with these heavy balloons as the convoy of grieving motorbikes rev.

A smoke alarm goes off in the chapel. When we let go, we point up at the sky,

watch the balloons struggle, a few drop into stranger’s gardens. But most,

 

eventually, get smaller and smaller and smaller and I don’t

want to put my finger down from the sky. In some other universe, city or time zone,

it’s Carnival, and a girl puts her hands around my past without flinching.

A man gives out free alcoholic ice poles. At 3pm we have a minute’s silence

 

for Grenfell Tower. we stand with our fists in the air, eyes down; paint, mud, gas canisters, confetti. We are slightly out of time with another sound system so towards the end

horns and hips start up again on an adjacent road until our MC has to speak

 

about a boy on this street who passed away this year, and give memory to everyone

/thing we have lost, and she hugs me so fast it as if (maybe) I was about to fall

 

or take off or burst and she needed to catch me

 

with unfazed fingers between the red, yellow and blue tassels of my dress.

That silent staggered minute growing smaller and smaller and smaller.

 

 

 

 

Writing Workout (2-3h) – Problem Solving.

You might be working on a show, or a collection, or a pamphlet or just know there is something you need to write about or maybe you are tired of constantly writing into the darkness and want to have more of a plan?

As I am working towards a show there a few scenes I know I need to write, and I kind find that hard (as you may have seen from my other more freestyle focused writing exercises) I really enjoy writing into the dream part of my brain and being surprised at what comes out.

But there is a fight/ cypher scene I know I needed to write, so I took this morning 7.30am-11am (after exercise + stretching for 15min) to just focus on writing this but with a few goals in mind:

  1. I don’t want to write ferociously, I want to write with consideration and accuracy – using a thesaurus or google to really ensure every word/image I choose feels right for the image I can see so clearly in my head or maybe even am fighting to find clarity with and with each word I get ‘right’ it can become clearer.
  2. I want it to be small and fierce (like me), a tight, compact, concise image that punches someone in the face so each word needs to not work in terms of what it means (dictionary definition) but sound like what it means and pull against my other word choices and the lineation to add new dimensions and layers to that meaning.
  3. Play with the language and music of grime but not on beat, a lot of what I write at the moment is too music, so I kind of want this to be a counter stretch that uses the language I grew up with in a more conversational manor.

 

How? 

1. Find a poem that resonates – I found a poem by Kayo Chongonyi in Kumukanda called In Defence of DarknessIt has a sense of the hidden but also the intimate and gave a clear sensory image in 4 stanza’s which I want.

2. Steal some rules from that poem – I took:

  • 2 x 4 line stanzas and 2 x 5 line stanzas
  • line length similar
  • Lots of sensory detail

3. Add a rule of your own – I added:

  • Make the punctuation more visible like it looks like what is happening and only use .?\/() (This is because I want to think about how my show is published, I don’t want to adhere to the formal grammatical rules but instead think about how MCs use it and how my dyslexic mind more intrinsically see’s it).

4. Set time aside and commit – This is really a longer exercise, because I want you to take time over each word, get a coffee if and when you need, listen to a song, have a dance. Take little breaks to clean your mind, it’s not about vigorously writing and editing but meditating and mulling the images/smells/textures in your mind until the right once comes to the surface but you are still working towards a full draft by the end of the allotted time…

Mosh from the Humanities Block

Editing Note: When returning to this I will take out the scaffolding of the rules I stole from Kayo, the exercise is the spring board to get the content out, the editing task will be later working out what stanza/line length etc. serves this piece best!

Have a great weekend!

Debris x

 

Writing Workout (40-60min) – Writing Towards a Deadline

I am working towards the deadline now of the first draft of my script for my show with the Royal Court next year. So when I sit down at my desk it is really easy to get overwhelmed by the scale of things (especially as a dyslexic, I have so much writing and even reading through it all is a challenge). Unlike the last couple challenges I have set, this writing workout is to push you to dedicate a good chunk of time to writing, 40min, 60min, maybe even 2 hours if you want to push it that far! I am currently deleting all social media apps off my phone 11am-3.30pm and dedicating this to writing (still use watts app and email in my lunch break but one step at a time).

So, here is an exercise to trick you back into the flow of writing, you will need: 

-A friend or a device that enables you to contact them

-Writing tools of some king (use whatever you feel comfortable with OR maybe use something you don’t feel comfortable, this can be interesting to mix things up and maybe bring about a new writing style)

-a timer on your phone or wherever

1. Get someone you trust in a room, on the phone, on watts app and just talk to them about the show. 

This sounds simple, but this has been such a huge factor to everything I have achieved, whenever I am putting a project together or working with someone I request a mentor/dramaturge/pritical friend/peer even if its just an hour on the phone or a day together. With this piece I was lucky enough to have some times with Hannah Silva who is an amazing poet but also a really close friend (and whom also set the initial writing exercise for me).

You can time the conversation, or just let it flow, you might have it the day before you want to write, or immediately before but the point is to find an event that feels emotionally relevant to the piece you are writing.

For me, this was a fight I was challenged to at at school.

2. First draft, 10min timer, free write (write without questioning, caring about spelling or sh**ness, don’t read any of it back to yourself whilst you are writing). It must; be in the third person, describe the activity running up to the event but not describe the event itself and try and give as much sensory detail as you can… GO!

Fight Scene

Purple blazers running like toddlers through a gang of pigeons,

Year sevens scatter, Tesco value salt and vinegar and blue Panda Pops everywhere

Year 9 is always first, the loudest amongs the crowd shouts

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF,

Voices gather, burst out of detention, Axel jumps out the top window of the science block,

Taymah chucks her left shoe on top of the humanities building,

Vinnie, the 5ft 3 year 10 jumps on Jaspreets back as she starts sprinting.

Gary’s burger van is abandoned, chili sauce everywhere,

Hayley Folks slips, but braces herself on several other kids.

One random year 8 no one knew existed starts lobbing oranges.

 

All the worst schools wore black trainers, knickers, all black converse,

Air force ones, leggings, black jeans, diamonds in their tights,

Lynx or Joop on their necks, earings bigger than faces,

Sprints sharper than the rush hour Shenfield train

Tighter together than hands to hips in a slow whine.

Every year in the school is there now. Football hooligan zolume,

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF.

 

Year 10 start the rumours about the chain up Debris’ sleeve,

The foldable scisors tucked to sleep in her right sock,

Apparently she got kicked off the Valentines grounds for setting Amit’s head on fire.

Debris is in the boys gymnasiam changing room getting ready with the mandem,

Billing a zoot as if plaiting a childs hair.

Heathen stands behind her,

pulls a bottle of Blue Alizay out of his bag

and backs a third of the bottle in one then passes

it to Debris, who’s chest is raised,

Tie short and fat, trousers tight around trunk-thighs, elastic breaking and poking out like white hairs.

All 24 of the boys around her have their once purple blazer inside out revealing

An elaborately embellished gold lining, most of them have blackened lips.

 

3. Edit Prep, read through and highlight what is standing out to you (don’t change anything yet, but start to think about some rules you might want to set yourself for editing…

Fight Scene

Purple blazers running like toddlers through a gang of pigeons,

Year sevens scatter, Tesco value salt and vinegar and blue Panda Pops everywhere

Year 9 is always first, the loudest amongs the crowd shouts

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF,

Voices gather, burst out of detention, Axel jumps out the top window of the science block,

Taymah chucks her left shoe on top of the humanities building,

Vinnie, the 5ft 3 year 10 jumps on Jaspreets back as she starts sprinting.

Gary’s burger van is abandoned, chili sauce everywhere,

Hayley Folks slips, but braces herself on several other kids.

One random year 8 no one knew existed starts lobbing oranges.

 

All the worst schools wore black trainers, knickers, all black converse,

Air force ones, leggings, black jeans, diamonds in their tights,

Lynx or Joop on their necks, earings bigger than faces,

Sprints sharper than the rush hour Shenfield train

Tighter together than hands to hips in a slow whine.

Every year in the school is there now. Football hooligan zolume,

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF.

 

Year 10 start the rumours about the chain up Debris’ sleeve,

The foldable scisors tucked to sleep in her right sock,

Apparently she got kicked off the Valentines grounds for setting Amit’s head on fire.

Debris is in the boys gymnasiam changing room getting ready with the mandem,

Billing a zoot as if plaiting a childs hair.

Heathen stands behind her,

pulls a bottle of Blue Alizay out of his bag

and backs a third of the bottle in one then passes

it to Debris, who’s chest is raised,

Tie short and fat, trousers tight around trunk-thighs, elastic breaking and poking out like white hairs.

All 24 of the boys around her have their once purple blazer inside out revealing

An elaborately embellished gold lining, most of them have blackened lips.

 

4. Edit, I chose to set myself the following rules which you are free to try out (sometimes its just the idea of having rules that is helpful in a first edit, irrelevant of what they are so if you are new it can be helpful to borrow someone else and see what impact it has). My rules: 

10-15min timer

-Whole piece should be one sentence because I want to see if I can create the breathlessness of running towards a fight and pick the heart rate up of the reader.

-Trial out long and short lines in 3 line stanza’s to play around with the frantic nature and the stop, start, chaos of the run up to a fight.

-Play around with sound, and repetition as much as possible (I have been really obsessed with how this exists in Grime and slang recently so want to try and use some of that thinking), to push that consideration I put a Grime instrumental mix on in the background.

 

Hungry toddlers through squads of purple pigeons,

10p Space Invaders, Fredo’s, blue Panda Pops,

everywhere

 

year 9 is always first, loudest

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF, burst

out of detention –

 

Axel jumps out the top window of the science block, Taymah chucks her left shoe

on top of the humanities building, Vinnie,

the 5ft 3 year 10 jumps on Jaspreet’s back and she starts sprinting

 

Gary’s burger van

abandoned, chili sauce everywhere, Hayley Folks slips

braces herself on several other kids, one year 8 no one knew existed starts lobbing oranges

 

all black trainers, knickers, Air Force 1s, leggings, reinforced thighs from high rise,

broken lifts, elastic taring diamonds in tights,

Lynx or Joop on necks, earings bigger than faces,

 

Sprints sharper than the rush hour Shenfield train, pupils pack and pull in tighter

than hands to hips in slow whine, jook/jook/jab/jab/dagger dat/splash/splash/splash

Every year in the school is here now

 

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

 

I can barely see or hear out the frosted boys changing room window BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

BEEF Apparently she got kicked off the Valentines grounds for setting Amit’s head on fire BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

 

Heathen is billing a zoot as if plaiting his baby sisters hair, momentarily

one handed, he slides a bottle of Blue Alizay from his Just Do It backpack

backs a third and passes it to Debris

 

all 24 of the boys around her have their once purple blazer inside out

revealing gold lining, most of them have blackened lips

a lick, ready to stick rizla to roach

 

one day bus ticket was all you needed to show for a month round here

bus drivers to scared to ask

Debris slides foldable scissors into left sock

 

bicycle chain her weapon of choice – too much WWF, Streets of Rage and COD

2.30pm, 15min till she needs to be at the school gates

Heathen passes the zoot, condom over the smoke detector

 

the year 11s have started wearing stab proof vests

under the premise of fashion,

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

 

The crows start to head out, pilgrims to promise land,

lambs to the slaughter, wise men

to the brightest star

 

awaiting Debris’ heard of grey blazers,

of smoked meat, awaiting the closest they all know to love –

grief.

5. Refine – with as much time as you want, no Music, read Out loud, choose a title I chose to remove all line breaks and push this use of breathlessness (again if you want to try this or give yourself another rule it is up to you, a line break based rule might be fun if you don’t often to this).

 

Hunting for Gold

Hungry toddlers scatter

squads of purple pigeons, 10p Space Invaders, Fredo’s, blue Panda Pops,

a student teacher sobs,

year 9 is always first, loudest

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF, burst

out of detention –

Axel jumps from the top window of the science block, Taymah lobs her left shoe

on the humanities building, Vinnie,

the 5ft 3 year 10 jumps on Jaspreet’s back and she starts sprinting,

Gary’s burger van

abandoned, chili sauce everywhere, Hayley Folks slips

braces herself on several other kids, one year 8 no one knew existed starts hurling oranges

towards all black trainers, Kickers, Air Force 1s, leggings, reinforced thighs from high rise

broken lifts, elastic taring diamonds in tights,

Lynx or Joop on necks, earings bigger than faces,

and sprints sharper than the rush hour Shenfield train, pupils pack and pull in tight

(hands to hips in slow whine jook/jook/jab/jab/dagger-dat/splash/splash/splash)

every year in the school is here now

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

I can barely see or hear out the frosted boys changing room window BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

BEEF (apparently she got kicked out the Valentines Secondary grounds  for setting Amit’s head on fire) BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

Heathen is billing a zoot as if plaiting his baby sister’s hair, momentarily

one handed, he slides a bottle of blue Alizé from his Just Do It backpack

backs a third and passes it to Debris

all 24 of the boys around her have their once purple blazer inside out

revealing gold lining, most of them have blackened lips

a lick, ready to stick Rizla to roach,

(Debris slides foldable scissors into left sock

bicycle chain into right breast pocked)

2.30pm, 15min till she needs to be at the school gates

Heathen passes the zoot

(condom over the smoke detector)

the year 11s have started wearing stab proof vests

under the premise of fashion BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF BEEF

the crows head out (pilgrims to promise land)

lambs to the slaughter,

wise men

to gold stars.

 

30min Writing Workout: Jon Sands’ Persona Poems

This is the third post in a series of blogs providing easy daily workouts for your poetic mind. 

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have a workshop with Jon Sands as part of the Mouthy Poets event Say Sum Thin 8 and I would like to share part of his workshop with you to do at home:

Step 1, watch this:

 

Step 2: List two stories from your life now that you cannot stop thinking about…List two stories that you cannot stop reading about. Then choose the one that feels most relevant or important to keep working with.

Step 3: List three non human witnesses to that incident/story. Choose the one that feels like it has the most in it.

Step 4: Picture that object as a system, a full emotional system – just like the plastic bag. Here is one more video that takes an object as a witness to an event for inspiration –

Step 5: Give yourself 20min (set a timer) to write a whole first draft of a persona poem in your objects voice.

Here is an example of a poem written by Mouthy Poet Alumni, Matt Miller in that time frame at Jon’s original workshop –

Tigger

He saw me smash my bass guitar

into the ceiling of my bedroom.

 

He saw me cover up the hole it made

with a poster of Alan Shearer.

 

Though he didn’t say anything, I’m sure

he shared the same frustration I felt;

 

an object that was not a toy

but a symbol of approaching adulthood.

 

Later that afternoon, he was careful

not to watch me masturbate.

 

He’s learned by now when to look away.

 

Occasionally I’ll re-arrange him and the other

soft toys in the corner of my room.

 

I’ll bet he wishes I was less anal about it,

wishes I’d throw him to a friend, catch the return,

 

lap up the growing tinge of violence, have his head

carelessly smashed against a wall from time to time.

 

Instead, a smothering, a guilt, a reverence.

Arrange them carefully, make sure they can all breathe.

 

University, and he might have enjoyed the emptiness

of my bedroom for a few weeks. Stretched his legs,

 

stared at the sky through the Velux. Dad

knew when he’d had enough,

 

sent him to Nottingham

in a parcel, with a memory of a re-stitched tail.

 

He sat pride of place, wedged

into the corner of my narrow dorm bed,

 

squeezed by pillow. Those, I think

were his proudest days. That’s when

 

he’ll have seen me at my best, heard

the tinge of happy violence in the corridors,

 

witnessed me drunk, aggressive, tense,

grinning, proclaiming inspiration, he’ll have met her

 

with me, he’ll have carried the sweet smell of her.

He’ll have seen me really cry then.

 

He came home with me that Christmas,

brimful with stories for the others,

 

which he’ll never have told them once he realised

that I wasn’t going back.

 

He saw me in hospital. New brat.

I turn to him at my weakest.

 

Just once, I suppose, once more,

he’ll want to see me celebrate.