Hope you had a great half term!
This is a quick poetry writing exercise I found on Ted Talks. It’s an 18 minute video in which he explains the three steps for writing a 2-line poem. The audience write along with him and produce their 2-line poem (I did it myself, it was fun) so I played it for my writers and invited them to write along.
About half of them decided to give it a go, others were working on their own stuff. Of the half that started, a few dropped out along the way, one turned hers into a piece of prose instead, and just one completed a poem. She then turned it into a longer poem.
I just wanted to point out that this is fairly typical and I don’t mind at all if I introduce exercises and they either fall flat or only one or two people get anything out of them. Inspiration is such a personal thing that I’m quite impressed if something does speak to more than a couple of them, and even if it only works for one of them, I consider that completely worth it.
I also think it proves, again and again, what I’ve always felt – that they get much more out of coming up with their own ideas. Everyone at our meeting last week wrote something, I didn’t care whether it was a 2-line poem or not. And if it’s something they’ve come up with themselves then it’s usually going to be much more personal and important to them than something they’ve come up with in response to an exercise.
I’m very aware that I’m posting all these little exercises for you to use (and I have used them and found them all helpful in various ways myself), but I want to stress that most weeks I don’t ask them to do anything in particular at all, I just let them write whatever they want. And although we have our prompt box and flash fiction prompts, they rarely need them. I think it’s actually more beneficial for them to come up with their own ideas. That’s what creativity is, after all. It’s great to have some backup prompts and exercises to support them if they need them or want them, but in my experience they generally don’t.
So please don’t feel that you’re not doing enough if you’re not bringing in inspirational exercises every week or your group aren’t all writing heartfelt responses to your poetry exercise! You’re doing everything you need to just by giving them your time and space and attention.
*NB: in the video he writes a poem for a friend who took his own life, and he asks the audience to write theirs about someone they’ve ‘lost’. I made a point of saying to my writers in advance that this could be someone they haven’t seen in a while, someone they used to know, an old teacher or neighbour or pet, or just someone they do still know, it didn’t have to be someone who had died and that if they felt that writing about this would be upsetting then they shouldn’t do it and they could interpret the exercise any way they wanted.