Last week, the Informals’ writing session kicked off with an exercise sparked by an opening sentence from Mark: ‘Why am I stressed? I’m not actually accomplishing anything!’

As usual, our quick burst of writing  produced entirely different styles of text from each of us.  Goodness knows how the subconscious mind manages to throw up such ideas, but mine ended up being about a superhero stressing about the things he had to do (‘save the planet, bring about world peace’) but who couldn’t leave his flat because he’d lost his tights.

We then went on to an activity created by the poets Kerry Featherstone and Mark Goodwin and featured in ‘Words & Things‘ – a ‘resource box’ of creative writing activities inspired by objects and art.  The activity encourages you to return to a piece of writing and cut it back to only what’s absolutely essential – one or two phrases, perhaps, and removing some of the small words or adjectives.

We decided to be generous and allow ourselves 8 to 10 sentences from our ‘stress’ texts, using poetic licence to tweak them a little to make them ‘flow’.  There was some reluctance about the activity, I must admit, and people were sceptical that it would work. They needn’t have worried.

Here’s what survived of my superhero piece:

The stress feeds into itself,
more anxious and less
if you get my meaning.
The list of things I need,
hurtling towards the earth
in roughly 8 hours,
breaching security.
Unable to leave the apartment,
where hell has put my clean red tights.

Wimbledon Mike wrote a piece based on school days:

An Eye for an Eye

How can it be that everyone is stressed?
The 1950’s ‘never had it so good’.
By the 1960’s, everyone was socialist then.
The Cuffley Gang came by train
Caused stress, the mouth punch ‘for the heck of it.’
‘Boys will be boys’; Hertford could not handle it.
This sadistic boy; essentially stupid – his come-uppance?
Old Testament – an eye for an eye – eyeless and toothless people.

And finally, Jen Min’s piece:

“Oh, I could do that,” I said.
“There’s a lot involved,” she said.
“What if it rains?” said Mrs Peters.
Joe Bates offered to ask his mate for his marquee.
Perhaps we could all pile into the school hall?
“Not on my polished floors!” said Eileen the cleaner.
What if it rains?  What if it rains?
We usually invite the Scout Band.  Oh no,
What if it rains?

eye for an eye

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