First, we passed around a jar containing forty slips of paper. On each slip was one word representing either: a person (think ‘grandmother’, ‘pilot’, ‘baby’); a place (such as a ‘hospital’, ‘farm’, ‘dungeon’); a thing (options included a ‘puppy’, ‘bicycle’, ‘measles’), or a theme (like ‘veganism’ and ‘inequality’). Next, each writer chose two slips of paper … and then it was pens out, heads down, and everyone had ten minutes to muse in writing about how their two words could be connected.
The results were surprising, with one member composing a rollicking piece of flash fiction about a Sikh family and their vegan dog, while another compared teachers with pilots, drawing on memories from an Eastern European childhood to craft some fine poetic metaphors.
Another member, Matt Jackson, later said he viewed the exercise as a helpful creative primer. ‘These types of exercises are prompts – they force you to think of new ideas, they put you out of your comfort zone,’ he said. ‘And the biggest plus is that by putting yourself in that box and being forced to react, it gets the creative part of your mind working. So say you then turn your attention to a main piece of work or analysis – you’re then in a good, flexible mindset before you start, and by shifting your attention elsewhere (and keeping other things in the back of your mind) you give yourself the chance to loosen up.’
Matt’s response to this exercise is our Writing of the Week, which he says he could possibly expand into a longer letter or short story. Matt’s topics were a thing (a ‘submarine’) and a theme (‘the meaning of life’). Thanks Matt for your kind permission to share this piece with our readers.
My darling, I pray that this bottle will find you well.
Would that it were my bottle, this putrid submarine I am trapped in, but where this message will rise and breach for air I will remain trapped on the seabed, beholden to this crippled god.
I have had the chance to think these past few days. There are a great many things left unsaid to a great many people. That cannot be helped. But for you I can perhaps make good some small part of that debt.
I love you.
I never said it during our time together. But I love you.
I remembered earlier when I first texted you. How in return I got a message thanking me, but I must have the wrong number. For the next half hour I swore and raged myself out. How could I be so fucking stupid? To put your number in my phone incorrectly?
Then of course you relented, let me know you had been messing with me the whole time.
I should have learned then.
What about when you introduced me to your parents and you told them I had gotten you pregnant? Never before nor since has such heat been levelled my way. I cringe internally still. Yet here and now I can’t help but laugh. That is us.
Should you meet someone else – please don’t change. Not ever. Laugh with them. Don’t let misery dwell on you. Love again, freely and without restraint. It will hurt. But that is simply the price of everything that matters. That I promise.
I must stop here – the captain is calling. The metal around me creaks and groans with subterranean noise.
Forever and always,
Submarine text copyright: Matt Jackson. All images from the public domain.