Reflections from the River of Stones

During January I, along with a few hundred other writers, have been taking place in the River of Stones writing project.  Each day, we write a ‘small stone’ – a sentence or two about something that has caught our attention each day – ‘ a polished moment of paying proper attention’  as the curator of the project Fiona Robyn defines it.  As the project nears its end, I am reflecting on what I have gained from the experience.

Most importantly, I have benefitted from reading hundreds of other stones and analysing why I like them.  I have two favourite small stones by other writers from the project:

‘Cast as the evil and stupid witch, because Amélie is a princess, Beatrix is a fairy and “…every story needs to have a baddy, Mummy, so she can get beaten. And it has to be you”.  I cast my best spell, putting them to sleep for a thousand years. There’s no need to worry. Later Daddy will wake them with a kiss’ – Claire King

‘I throw fruit instead of passing it nicely because I like the clappy-slappy noise when you catch it.’ – Martha Williams

In Claire’s stone, it’s a family scene, one that captures that sense of childhood innocence and play in a few minutes of time.  It’s like a photograph – an exact moment that will never be recreated but lives on forever.  Martha’s stone is a wonderful sharp observation that had me looking for the nearest piece of fruit to try it out and that kept me smiling for days afterwards.  They’re two perfect polished moments of paying attention.  I’m sure everyone has their favourite stories but these capture both the spirit of the project and the power of writing to trigger the imagination and the senses.

I don’t think I’ve hit those dizzy heights with my stones (although there’s still a few days to go!) but as both Claire and Martha are ‘proper grown up’ writers, I’m  not going to beat myself up too much.  There’s a handful I’m quite pleased with though and a few people have been kind enough to say some positive things.  However, I wonder why some days I can create something I’m happy with quite easily and other days, it’s a difficult frustrating process for just a couple of sentences?

Having thought about it and looked through what I’ve written – I find I have different types of stone.  The first is as intentioned by the project.  I see something I think is of interest or amusement, get into the scene and describe it as best I can in as few words as possible.  This comes almost without effort – observing people on a train or the mountain of paperwork in my office.  On other occasions however, I’m completely blocked and one of two things happen.  I think of something (anything), knock it out, feeling it’s not good enough but knowing that I’ve cut my losses for the day and that there’s always tomorrow or I concentrate on my mood and develop a stone that fits it.   One comment on my blog said my darker stones felt like ‘big boulders’ and she’s right, they are.  I’m also undecided whether this is in a way ‘cheating’ but I find it cathartic and I’m generally pleased with the result.  As a result, I have found that forcing myself to write in just one way doesn’t work for me and I need to adapt how I write depending on how I feel after a few minutes at the keyboard in order to make the best use of my time.

In February I’ve set myself the (now public) challenge of writing a 3000 word short story so I’m hoping that the things I’ve learnt about myself and the inspiration from others are going to carry me through.  What have others learnt recently from other people’s work or about how they write?

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