Monday, 5 May 2008

Last words

First of all, the project starts HERE, and the post you're reading is actually the last one. If you want to start from the beginning, then follow the link above, or use the sidebar. I don't think that it's important to go in order, but if you do, that's how to do it. The sidebar has links to all of of the other sections, so if you want to start in the middle, then you go ahead and start there!

Secondly, my last practical tip for having fun is very simple.

Pick up your local paper, and read it - especially the What's On section. A lot goes on in church halls, parks, libraries, art galleries and high streets. A lot of it is free, or very cheap. Some of it will be rubbish, but some of it will be excellent. Luckily, you'll never find out until you try. So try!

Lastly, be brave and be bold. Open that door. Go and talk to those people. Attend that free lecture. Explore the gap in that fence. When you're not sure, but curious, then take the chance and try it. Make choices. Take chances.

Have fun.

Conjure a story

Parts of this have worked really well with different creative writing workshops that I used to run - some for group projects, some for single person projects - and others have worked well for just me. What works for just you might be different still, so re-mix, revise, ignore or obey as you choose.

a) Choose a handful of story elements entirely randomly,
b) Work out how they could fit together.
c) Evaluate, draft, and write-up

Story elements might be characters (a lawyer, two brothers), or character traits (a greasy man), or situations (a secret test), or motivations (causing a diversion), or the tone of the whole thing (absurd), or things that happen in the story (a balloon bursts!) or appear in the tale, (a goldfish bowl). Two or three might be enough, or it might not.

Some ideas on random sampling –
• Turn on the TV, flick quickly between channels using the remote control, and use what you see and / or hear as your ‘sample’
• Drop a biro onto a magazine article, choose your favourite word near the mark it makes.
• Fan through the pages of a book, put in your finger, then use the first word of the third paragraph on that page, or the fourth word of the fifth sentence, or the…
• Push a pin through a few pages of a newspaper, and use the words or photos that contain the ‘bullet-hole’

How the elements could fit together is entirely up to you. An “anything goes” approach at the start of the thinking process can lead you to unexpected places further down the line, so you might want to welcome ideas that appear boring or daft at first – they might turn into butterflies. Perhaps the pressure of time will force you to think on your feet and come up with something unexpected - Think hard for one minute, and write nothing, then write hard for five minutes and then stop – Kurt Vonnegut says that in a dramatic story, everybody must want something, even if it is only a glass of water. Who wants what? Why can’t they get it?

Oh – and it’s your story, so if a fireman would work better than the policeman you’ve ‘sampled,’ then change it. Do you like what you’ve thought of? Why? Why not? Is it worth taking it any further? If so, then take it further – a couple of paragraphs… half a page…

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Compile lists – making lists appeals to some, and not to others.

Lists I like making, and why:
· To-do lists: make me feel organised and awake
· Top ten lists: apples are better than oranges
· Wish lists: writing them down brings them to life
· Shopping lists: or I forget all the boring groceries like loo roll

Some ideas for lists to make:
· Top ten sandwich fillings
· Words I want to use more often
· Books to lend out, and to whom
· The last five times my heart skipped a beat
· My Top Ten T-Shirts
· Things I want to know more about
· The best haircuts in movies

Transpose literary forms – take a short story, paragraph, or newspaper article and re-write it as a limerick, in couplets, in sonnets, a series of haiku, in rhyme, in a particular meter.

Make a Celebrity Dartboard – by choosing twenty-one disliked famous people, and putting their faces behind the numbers one to twenty and the bullseye of a hypothetical dartboard. Assigning the numbers grades their rubbish-ness.

Make and play a xylophone using bottles with different water levels

Listen to Radio 4 – with a cup of tea


Climb a tree - imagine the tree as a road map, with a first rest stop for a hand, then a foot, and so on. Choose a good, thick tree with wide branches for perching and plenty of routes to explore.

Water fight – A few principles:
1. Go outdoors! Seriously.
2. The warmer the weather, the longer you’ll enjoy it.
3. Wear only clothes you’d gladly ruin.
4. Bear grudges, and always get your revenge, (at least until the water runs out).

Explore the woods.

Treasure hunt – a sequence of clues reveals the route to a hidden prize. The clues might be cryptic, riddling, or rhymed – the challenge of solving each is an appetiser before the main course of treasure. Set one up for friends, or invite a friend to do so for you. Find a route, write clues, test it out, and hide something. It works indoors too – a clue tucked inside a CD might direct the hunters to a particular passage in a book on a shelf, a drawer, a coat pocket, beneath a pot plant…

Scavenger hunt – a list of things to collect, maybe within a time limit, maybe in a specified place. The list might be literal – a feather; a blue cup; a foreign coin – or descriptive – something brown with no corners; a photo of someone you’d like to punch – or a clue – ‘Elizabeth and the Portcullis’ (3,5,5)* – or made up of any combination thereof. Hunting around the house works well too. A variation – rather than collect the items, photograph them.

Explore a cemetery. Look for a headstone that commemorates a date of death near to the date of your own birth. Imagine the person, their lifetime, their dreams.

Make a bonfire. Burn it in the company of friends. Dance around it when it's raging, sing together when it calms at little, and tell stories around the embers. Or just stare at the shapes in the flames.

Orienteering courses are all over the place. Maps cost a pound from the park warden. Try it.

*The solution is “One Penny Piece,” so that is the item that would need to be retrieved.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Camera Fun

Messing about with photography offers the potential for lots of different kinds of fun. A digital camera means that taking lots of photos needn’t cost the earth, and that seeing what they look like immediately is easy too. Simple image manipulation software comes bundled as standard with most computer operating systems, so the messing around need not stop when the shutter closes.

Recreate a well-known image – from a statue, a film, a painting, an advert, an album cover, a news story. Cast yourself, or your friends, or cardboard cut-outs or…

Make a photo casebook story by assembling pictures you’ve taken into a comic strip, either with real pictures, scissors, and glue, or with a mouse and keyboard. It can be about anything.

Some ideas:
• An moment from your life
• Historical event, (for example, the discovery of chocolate)
• A depiction of the lyrics of a song you love.
• A fable
• Make a photo casebook story and ask someone else to provide the words, or vice versa

Themed photography challenge – decide on three of four (or ten!) loose themes, and then set out to take two good photographs that relate to each of them. Like this. The themes can be as general or as specific as you want: a wide scope and a narrow focus each have merits and flaws. Here are nine ideas for themes:

- helping
- broken
- separate
- trio
- gone
- loud
- tracks
- through
- wind

Far / Near – using a trick of perspective, take a photo that gives the impression of the foreground and background interacting in a fantastic and unusual way.

• ‘park’ a toy car in a real car park

originally uploaded by Steve Brandon.

• integrate a record cover or book cover into the real world

• fit a face to a folded fiver, or tenner

Fake a yeti sighting, alien visitation, dinosaur footprint.

A note on record-keeping

LTLYM and The Plug place almost as much emphasis on documenting their activities as on doing them; the difference is that LTLYM collates many people’s interpretations of assignments, whereas The Plug is one group’s record. LTLYM assignments occasionally specify sizes, formats and colours so as to impart cohesion across the responses of the many participants. The Plug website looks great, in my opinion.

I think making a record of how you get on with one or more of the tasks could be fun, but the tasks ought to be fun in themselves, and simply remembering what you did and how it felt at the time is enough of a record.

I like the idea of basing a series of things around a theme or a place, like Plug Issue 28, whose activities take place around one road junction. Even then documenting a series isn’t as important as knowing that you’re making a series.

And what if you did want to document your exploits? Well, that’d be fun too, I think.

Friday, 2 May 2008


(click to make bigger)

The wisdom of