Writing From Life (Brighton Creative Writing Sessions No. 1)

How can your writing be influenced by what you see? How do you use images in your work?

On Saturday, Ellen de Vries and I held the first of our Brighton Creative Writing Sessions events. These are a series of playful, experimental creative writing sessions held in Jake Spicer's studio (also home to the Brighton Life Drawing Sessions). The studio proved to be a fantastic home, providing a more inspiring environment than a classroom-style venue.

Ellen and I did a lot of planning but were a little nervous before the start. How would people respond to what we were trying to do? It turned out that we had no reason to worry. The attendees were enthusiastic and both Ellen and I had a fantastic day.

The session started with a clip from Wild At Heart: "My dog barks some. Mentally you picture my dog, but I have not told you the type of dog which I have. Perhaps you even picture Toto, from 'The Wizard of Oz.'". This set the tone of the session.

We had a number of exercises and discussions examining the relationship between words and the visual world. We gave everyone blank paper to write on, urging them to think beyond writing in neat lines. As a warm up we used some timed visual prompts, similar to what we do for the our Not for the Faint-Hearted sessions, but using Jake's paintings:


Jake joined in with the exercises, and hearing him respond in writing to his own paintings was fascinating. In another exercise, people wrote about their non-dominant hand, producing some tremendous self-portraits. We also had some discussions, including Jake talking about drawing as a visual language.


For me the most interesting part was when we introuced a life model as a prompt. She made a series of three costumed poses.


For the final two poses we used easels to hold the paper. Obviously everyone had to stand for this and we all found that writing while standing gave the act a different energy.


It was this exercise that I found most valuable, and I produced one of the most exciting pieces of writing I've done in years. Jake's recent Catalyst Club talk urged people to experiment with drawing, and I tried mixing my (admittedly poor) drawing skills with writing. I tried to capture the shape of Frankie's hair with the shape of my text, adding a few lines to suggest her face and outfit. While the prose was not perfect, I found the experiment inspiring. I can't wait to try building on this.


For me, it was a rewarding afternoon. The attendees were friendly and gave the session a lovely relaxed mood. The next session is on Sunday 26th, on Wabi-Sabi (tickets available here):

This is a miracle-worker for writer’s block and for loosening up to generate new ideas. Wabi Sabi is a Japanese tradition which celebrates broken and fragmented things, things coming into life and dying things. It lends itself well to writing from landscape; it’s a new way of looking into the cracks in the world around you. "Just lean into the crack / and it will tremble ever so nicely. Notice how it sparkles down there". Bjork.

Thanks to Jake Spicer for providing the venue. Below is a postcard he produced in response to one of the exercises. I love this piece!


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2 thoughts on “Writing From Life (Brighton Creative Writing Sessions No. 1)”

  1. love it love it love it!!
    couldn’t make last weekend and can’t make this weekend (sigh…), Bjork is so gonna miss me!

  2. I attended this session with some trepidation as I had not written much at all for some time and was very rusty. The welcome was extremely warm and encouraging and the other attendees all very friendly.
    The exercises we tried were unusual but very stimulating and I think we all produced some good results. The discussions were also lively and positive.
    I came away happy and convinced that I can continue and improve my writing. It has restored my confidence and I shall be attending all the other sessions too.

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