I’ve been wondering this recently as I run workshops in lots of different kinds of writing; report writing, reflective, case studies, expressive, writing better emails… and it made me wonder about the value of just, well, getting any words down. One of the things I pass on to people who struggle with writing is that any writing helps, no matter what it is.
Sometimes, if I’m not feeling it, I want to write but know it won’t work. So I make lists, which at least helps me focus on words, not on trying to create something bigger or more structured like, say, a short story or a chapter of my work in progress. Often, these lists can start to feel like poems, and although I’m not a poet, it still feels satisfying and can lead me to one of those ‘ping!’ moments. I can solve a character or plot problem through a series of little clues that I follow, or just maybe find that I’ve eased myself into that bigger piece of writing through these incidental warm-ups.
My writing friend gave me a series of very old black and white photographs that she’d found in a charity shop. She wondered if they’d prove fruitful, and they did, of course. How could I not be intrigued by photos of women with dogs, which is what they all had in common; some were dated 1926, ‘Edna and Floozie with Henry (in deckchair)’, or ‘Aunty Gran, Grandma and Dodie (the dog)’.
Here’s my response to Dog On A Plinth: (see photos above)
My dog is a very fine dog
He stands still, very still
He does everything he is asked to
Also, he knows to look at the camera
How clever he is!
Aldo, I call him. But in truth
He answers to any word that is said