Hi there. Gary Studley here. Welcome to SoundLines’ Blog 1. Obviously, the focus of our blogs will change over time and will be affected by whomever writes them, new inspirations etc. However, in this first instance I aim to set the writing ball rolling for members and site visitors alike. Enjoy.

Writing can be sparked by an overheard conversation; favourite meal; a need to purge or way to celebrate; family or TV news; love/ hate and their variants, etc. In exercise situations it’s also common to prompt reactions from participants using first lines of famous poems; a list of random or opposite words; a chart of senses with associated experiences filled in. Often in this process the emphasis is on memory ie tapping into your life to use a personal past experience to create something for now.

All of these work and have merit – but in some cases the key words offered have such a suggested weight and import that by their very nature they can steer a writer in a certain direction. It’s like someone else has started the process for you and despite how unique we all are, it feels like there’s a predetermined, familiar way to go forward. So instead, try this exercise and see what happens.

To use a Joy Division song title, here’s Exercise One

We all have favourite places in our lives where pivotal incidents and moments have taken place. You are probably thinking of that house/hill/beach/landmark/path/country right now. Just for today though, try to forget all of the above. You know these things too well. You are too present.

Instead, get to your computer or smart phone; open Google Images and prepare to search in the loosest, most impersonal way possible.

Using landscape or geographical terms/features/vocabulary, type one such word into the search bar. I am avoiding giving you any examples or pointers so how specific/vague you go is up to you.

Whatever set of images come up, you have 5 seconds to choose the one image that most catches your eye. Save the image to your device in a folder entitled Exercise One. Delete the first search.

Repeat this search process with a new (but same themed) word in the search bar another 8 times.
By the end of 10 minutes you will have found/saved 9 images driven by 9 geographical/place words.

NB: If you did not do the above honestly, ie pushed the time limit a bit until you found an image you liked more, please go back to the search bar and find a replacement image by using a new word.

When done, brew a cup of tea/coffee or just get a drink. Bring it back to your work station. Sup a bit.

Open the 9 images on your device. When this is done, scroll / flick through all 9 and choose 1 of the 9, doing so quickly & instinctively ie without worrying about their usefulness or your associations.

Set a watch /clock for 10 minutes. Use that time to write what you can actually see – preferably in single words or short clauses. Try not to compartmentalise or link these observations. Drink something.

Set the alarm for 10 minutes again and still looking at the picture, mentally imagine a person in it, but avoid anything linking it to you or your own memory. When you have chosen one (male or female), write about how that person feels/how they respond/ what they do/ imagine or worry about if there.

Set your alarm for 10 minutes and create links between your observations & what affects the person, referring back to the image if needed. You now have a stranger being influenced by a place.

Drink. Breathe. Slow down. Set your alarm for 20 minutes and as fluidly as possible, write a poem using the image; what can be seen; what the person does, feels or experiences. This could be realistically descriptive or pure invention- so long as it’s not based on your life or something you heard elsewhere.

As the hour ends, smile – you will have a new idea or poem, based on image not word ; created by observation and invention, not memory. You can now leave it, build on it or share it. Congratulations!