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 – YOU ARE A POET!

Charlie Dark has been my mentor now for a good 8 years and every time we talk he reminds me… DEBORAH, YOU ARE A POET, the dancing, the grime, fitness, it is all great but strip it all away and at your core, you are a poet, do not forget that. 

BUT IT IS SO EASY. Especially at the moment as I am still recruiting a team for my show and there is loads of additional non-writerly things to do, I have every excuse in the world just millimetres away. So this is my no excuses, even if you have to do it on a train or on the toilet – WRITE F***ING NOW CAUSE YOU ARE A WRITER exercise of the day.

 

DRAFT 1 

Choose a commute you are taking (for me today it was from Sloane Sq. to Liverpool Street), put your headphones in, ideally music you love but don’t usually write too (this is a thing for me atm, and today it was Afro Jack) and write nonstop (no care for typos or being embarrassed about the woman peering over your shoulder) till the end of that journey. If you get stuck, just chuck in an image or scent you can see around you. This is my first draft, I have left all the Dyslexia in there so you can see how rough it is! 

 

Sharp shoulder blends into yellow pole,

Sometimes I feel like a a yellow;

Line, double, highlighter, fluorescent piss,

 

A bottle of barocha, single buscuit

Bottom of plastic value wishing well.

Wishing myself well. I miss all my exes on Sunday mornings, yet I’m terrified of people, want to order pizza but I’m convinced the 17 year old at the counter

Will spell the Wray Neph and neglect.

White rum tastes of miscilaneous shame.

 

My cheek stuck to his chest.

And I half enjoy feeling our sweat congeal underneath me in the morning light.

But I pull the cover in between our skin.

Feel the moisture suck into the fabric.

The salty crusts of morning.

 

A stranger swings an unretracted umbrella from his wrist, heavy and fun as an appendage.

 

Rows of shoes and fidgets.

It’s hard to look someone in the eyes

When the crotch and armpits are so close.

Fall asleep and wake up to the imprint of a zip on your cheek.

 

Pull this white sofa we are attempting sleep on into two, like a giant marshmallow, sometimes there is more space if you rip something up – extend the surface area. Lift your shirt up so your stomachs can touch.

 

Forget to wash the Tupperware after lunch. My bag smells so strongly of the colour green I don’t think my note book will recover.

 

I tend not to shower for the 24 hours after. It’s never conscious. Maybe I just want to keep the space you have left for a while. Suss it out, you out, us out.

 

I worked love out without you.

Where do I fit u.

Where do I fit.

Do I wear.

Do I fit.

 

DRAFT 2:

Give it a sec. Don’t read it, just lock your phone and finish your commute, have your dinner, wait till lunch or whatever, just let it ferment in your pocket for a bit. Then when you get some actual space, copy and paste it into a word doc. and turn on a new track list that you love but don’t usually write to (for me, Home Sweet Home by Kano) and edit. I chose to edit to find the core, the story, I wanted to see all the images and for there to be a sense of 2 people but in a wider world, vehicle or commute if it will. I also just wanted to feel free with the lineation so just tried to play on instinct and not think toooo much at this point. 

 

 

His sharp shoulder blends into the yellow pole,

supposed to be rush hour stability but

sometimes, I feel like a line… double,

highlighter,

fluorescent piss,                         a bottle

 

Berocca,

 

single beige biscuit on bedside table

bottom of plastic value wishing well.

Wishing…myself…(hand to big for noisy packaging)      Well?

 

Well, I miss all my exes on Sunday mornings,

 

yet I’m terrified of people, would order pizza but

I’m convinced the 17-year-old at the counter will smell

the Wray Neph,

the miscellaneous shame. My cheek

 

is stuck

 

to his chest. And I half enjoy it

sweat congealing,

clinging the way I imagine velcro does up close

tiny translucent hands desperate to stay together,

but kids feet grow

so fast              I pull the cover

in between his chest and my cheek

feel moisture suck fabric.

 

The salty crusts of morning.

 

(A stranger swings a flaccid umbrella from his wrist, heavy and fun as if an appendage.) Rows of shoes and fidgets. It’s hard to look someone in the eyes when crotch and armpits are so close. Fall asleep and wake up to the imprint of a zip on your cheek.

 

This white sofa we are attempting sleep on –

could we tear it like a giant marshmallow?

Sometimes there is more space if you rip something up – extend the surface area.

 

He lifts his shirt up so your stomachs can touch.

I forget to wash the Tupperware after lunch. My bag smells

I don’t think my note book will recover.

 

I tend not to shower for the 24 hours after. It’s never conscious. Maybe

I just want to keep his space

for a while.

 

 

 

 

Till it feels like mine.

 

Draft 3

Turn off the music. Read it out loud, cut any image or line that you can not see/hear/touch/taste/experience. Watch the movie that is the poem in your head and give it a title. (I might have to make a misc. series)…

 

Miscellaneous Shame

 

His spine is a yellow handrail on the Circle Line

supposed rush hour stability, but

sometimes, I feel like the line –

 

double, highlighter, fluorescent piss, a

bottle… Berocca, maybe?

Single beige biscuit

on bedside table. Bottom

of plastic value wishing well.

Wishing…

 

myself…(hand to big for noisy packaging)

Well? Well, I miss all my exes on Sunday mornings,

 

yet I’m terrified of people,

would order pizza but

I’m convinced the 17-year-old at the counter will

smell the Wray Neph,

the miscellaneous shame. My cheek

 

is stuck

 

to his chest. And I half enjoy it

sweat congealing,

clinging the way I imagine Velcro does

if you look closely – tiny translucent hands –

– desperate to stay together –

 

but kids feet grow so fast.

I pull the cover in between his chest – and my cheek – the salty crusts of morning –

 

(A stranger swings a flaccid umbrella from his wrist,

heavy and fun as an appendage.) Rows of shoes and fidgets.

It’s hard to look someone in the eyes when crotch and armpits

are so close. Fall asleep and wake up to the imprint of a zip on your cheek.

 

This white sofa we are attempting sleep on –

could we tear it like a giant marshmallow?

Sometimes there is more space if you rip something up – extend the surface area –

 

He lifts his shirt up so your stomachs can touch.

I forget to wash the Tupperware after lunch. My bag smells

I don’t think my note book will survive… (or recover?)

 

I tend not to shower for the 24 hours after. It’s never conscious. (Maybe?)

I just want to keep his space

for a while.

 

 

 

 

Till it feels like mine(?)

 

 

p.s. Lovely Photography by – Aileen Wessely www.farbanomalie.de

 

 

#WordsFirst @1xtra Birmingham

I am currently in the midst of a crazy week at The Rep in Birmingham with 19 other poets, working for a week as part of WordsFirst an initiative launched by Radio 1xtra and The Roundhouse. We are writing lots and lots under the wonderful guidance of Amerah & Bohdan, which will culminate in a show this Thursday evening at Hit the Ode SO PLEASE COME… Here is a tiny taste of the kind of stuff coming out, we are writing around the theme of future and this poem came out of an exercise where I was randomly given the sentence ‘Lauryn Hill will get repetitive nightmares for the rest of her life in the bat cave’ to start my poem…

Lauryn Hill will get repetitive nightmares for the rest of her life in the bat cave, and she will write the best poems she has ever written. Fear will become a komodo dragon with hands instead of a tongue, it will grab her throat, she will wake up, write it, try to sleep again. Haven’t we all been there before, trying to sleep again? Willing so hard not to re-enter the darkness of fear but the darkness of sleep and then we feel the hand/tongue tighten on our breathing again. Her rhymes will be so tight they will have to start up Def Poetry Jam again, Bic will reinvent the pen especially for her songs slamming evil men. But she’ll return to her bat cave, hench and inspirational as Tyler Durden.

If you want to try this exercise at home, get a group of people, write on one strip of paper the name of a person you all know (celeb, friend, etc.) fold and put in a pile, on another put the name of a place (chipshop, stone henge, a primary school etc.) fold and put in another pile and then put a ‘will…’ (will kill a hamster, will fall in love, will eat omelettes till they are sick) and make another folded pile. Each person then chooses one from each and a combination of these cards creates the opening sentence for 10min writing time to make a poem!