Story of your life in 100 words

I've recently begun teaching creative writing at Mockingbird Lounge. As a result, I have revisited many writing exercises while also discovering new ones. I'm particularly interested in exercises that force me to think hard about how I use language and what the story is that I'm telling; I like exercises that push me out of my usual old patterns of writing. 

Here is one that I'm loving at the moment:

Write the story/biography of your life in 100 words. 



Create limits/conditions for yourself such as:
  • Use only single syllable words
  • Omit the use of 'the'
  • Tell lies 
  • Write the story using only questions
  • Create biographies of your characters

This month I challenged the Mockingbird writers to do this exercise using only single syllable words. This created a different kind of voice than the one they were used to writing in. One writer slipped into a child-like voice and automatically began writing about a significant moment in her childhood when her family moved from the country to the city. It was strong. We felt the emotional impact of the change in environment on the child in that story.

Here is my draft effort of the above exercise. As well as the single syllable restriction, I allowed myself to lie:

Memoir of a Girl

I am tall. A girl with strength. A girl with balls. I was born from an egg. I crawled. I walked. I ran. You ran with me. Who is that? Who is that? Who is that? Where am I? What am I? What should I do with my life? Trees. Grass. Sea. Friends. Books. I like sweets. I love cold fruit. Sky is my friend. I dream. I know. I feel. I think. I love my dog. What is your name? Who is your Mum? Who is your Dad? Where are they now? Sounds in the night. The moon smiles at me. I bow.

The first line is a lie. I found it freeing to begin with a lie. It made something 'ping', seemed to create complexity in my thoughts. Physically I am not tall but as soon as I wrote that first line I knew that I feel tall. So the line is less of  lie than a bending of truth or even a re-modelling of what truth is. This is obviously a draft, a beginning, but you get the picture of how it forces a change in voice, in the way we tell story? Allow that change to happen. Run with it. You might be surprised at what turns up.

Try this one at the doctor's surgery or when you're waiting for any appointment, or at a coffee shop. Write the biographies of people around you. Better than reading Women's Weekly. Does anyone read WW anymore?

Happy writing,

C x

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