I sit here with a blank screen in front of me. I have no ideas, no words, no thoughts. I want to see what emerges, where my mind takes me. Creativity can only happen in a bounded environment … ‘write a story’ say many teachers to their students. It’s paralysing. What about? asks the child. Oh, anything you like, comes the reply.
That’s too hard.
Write a story, says the teacher.
What about? I ask, and already my mind is blank, while I desperately try to lock onto an idea, an image, a thought, a character, an event. Nothing and everything swirl through my mind. My mind spins, but nothing I can write a story about emerges. I sit, languishing at the back of the classroom with my hand in the air “Miss, Miss … but what will I write a story about?”
Write a story about flowers.
Seriously? Is that the best you can do? I need more information because the decisions I have to make are overwhelming me and I don’t have time to decide in the ten minutes you’ve given me to write my story. Please, teacher, tell me more. Where is the flower? Is it day time or night time? What kind of flower? One by the side of the road, or one in a garden, or in a vase, or in a hospital ward, or on a gravestone? One that’s just beginning to bloom and is fresh and new and vibrant or one that’s decaying/fading/wilting? What colour is the flower? How big is it? Does anyone see it? Are there other flowers/cows/ducks near it? Is it part of a bunch/a gang/a tribe? Is it tattooed on a biker’s arm/old lady’s back? Is the flower on a postcard, birthday card, sympathy card, farewell card? I need more information. Please, teacher, give me some boundaries and then I can write a story.
Do you know what? Every day for a week I’m going to show you a flower and you can create your own story about it. I’ll give you some parameters and you can go from there. Is it possible to write a 50 word story? Are you willing to give it a try?
If you’re willing, it means we both have a challenge … me to come up with an image of a flower and some boundaries, you to create a 50 word story.
Here we go.
Day One [of seven].
Boundaries: 50 words. Decay. Late evening. Outside. 1983.
I’m eagerly anticipating your story.