A little while ago I went to a Writing for Wellbeing workshop and one of the exercises was called ‘Writing Like a Beginner’. The idea was to stop worrying about getting it right and just write any old stuff – like you did when you were a child. It frees you up and gets you out of your critical mindset. The instructions were to think back to childhood, to a specific moment when you were writing something, or you could make up a moment, then write imagining you are that child doing the writing. We were given crayons to get in the mood, but were told we could change back to using a pen if we wanted to.
When I was a kid I wrote stories that were like fairy tales, so I decided to recreate one I vaguely remembered that featured a ‘naughty rat’. We had 10 minutes, which wasn’t quite enough for me to finish my tale, so I continued later in the break and this is what I ended up with…
A Silly Tale of Derring-Do
Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to be happy so she wrote a story with an orange crayon. The story was bad because the girl didn’t know what to write. In the story I remember there was a naughty rat and a princess who saved herself and the rat got in trouble. But I can’t remember the details…
(Can’t write with this. Giving up on the crayon. It’s too blunt and I can’t see what I’m doing.)
So, back to the rat and the princess…
The princess got in trouble and some prince tried to save her but fell in the moat and got covered in mud. The rat turned up and started to nibble his hair and that made him cross. But the more he thrashed in the water to get rid of the rat, the muddier the water got and he sunk deeper and deeper.
The princess was watching all this from her turret and she wasn’t impressed. She shouted at the prince to sort himself out.
But he couldn’t hear her because of the water and the thrashing and the rat chewing on his beard.
The princess looked around her room. There wasn’t much. A small bed, a chair and a dressing table. She picked up the chair and snapped off the legs. The window was only narrow and the chair wouldn’t fit unless she broke it up. Finally the pieces would fit and she threw them out of the window at the prince in the moat.
She aimed at the rat, who was still nibbling at the prince’s beard, and hit the prince square on the nose. He sank further into the water.
The rat got fed up and decided to go and do something else.
Meanwhile, the princess had also had enough. She decided to save the prince. He had sunk into the moat and disappeared. Bubbles were coming up from the water but the prince wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
The princess was very thin but quite strong, so she squeezed through the window and dived into the moat. She dived down through the muddy water and found the prince who was floating underwater.
She took hold of his beard and pulled. The princess swam to the shore, pulling the prince behind her.
As they came to the surface, the prince woke up and began to shout. Someone was pulling his beard. He thrashed and tried to push the hand away.
But the princess didn’t let go. She pulled the prince onto the bank and then she let go.
The rat was watching all this and was quite confused. The princess had been locked in the turret for a long time. If it was so easy for her to escape, why had she waited until now? The rat didn’t believe it was because of the prince, who was, as we speak, coughing and spluttering on the bank beside the moat and complaining that his face hurt…
…and that’s as far as I got. Not much of a story.
Later, when I was going through a box of bits and pieces from childhood, I found the original story with the naughty rat. I don’t know how old I was when I wrote it, but I had an experimental approach to writing in straight lines and the concept of punctuation was clearly anathema. Here’s the story, such as it is…
One day a man and a lady went out and they saw a door and the lady said are we allowed to open it and he opened it.
They saw a castle and a naughty rat came out and they went in and the naughty rat came out and shut the door and the naughty rat took the key away and they heard the naughty rat and they saw some eyes and they were bats and the man hit them.
They went up the stairs and saw a dragon and the man hit it and pushed it over the battlements
and they went down the stairs and the man said here is a window we can get out here and I will push you out first
and they jumped into the water and a frog came to rescue them on a lily leaf and they got on the lily leaf and the man pushed with his stick and the frog pushed with his stick and the frog helped them onto the grass and they said goodbye
and they saw the naughty rat and they crept up to him and he was going to shoot a duck and the man pushed the naughty rat into the water
and the lady said it serves you right it serves you right
Hmmm. Lots of conflict, a bit random and surprisingly violent. I think I’ve improved over the years, but not much… still a beginner!
Do you remember your first attempts at writing? Share below…