Having worked as the Portsmouth Literature Worker for almost two years now, I am struck by how many writers suffer from bouts of writers block. This seems to come about for all sorts of reasons: after a rude comment from a soon to be ex, following a bereavement or just through lack of time and writing practice.
There was much uproar on our Portsmouth Writers’ Hub facebook group page after a talk by Adele Parks when she said there was no such thing as writers’ block and suggested going for a walk. One writer who had suffered from depression complained bitterly that he had suffered years worth of writer’ block that had brought his successful TV writing career to an abrupt end.
For this reason, and also just because we love this local artist. I decided to put together an almost guaranteed writing unblocker. Because I believe that freewriting is a great way to get you back in the saddle, or to keep you in it if you’re about to swerve off, this book is an ode to Freewriting. It contains exercises, tips, ridiculous stories, spontaneous tales and some polished ones too. Hopefully with it on your bookshelf you’ll never feel too small or foolish to put pen to paper again.
Here is the book’s introduction
The man behind the brush, Jon Everitt, is sitting on a chair beside me, discussing whale teeth. Despite his warning that collaborating with an artist is not easy because they are likely to ‘be drawing tiny, busy things while you are talking to them’ it rather feels like a mixture of the familiar and the surreal. For one, he talks in comedic pictures, for instance he has just sipped his tea, bopped his head and said ‘it’s going to be as cool as a cucumber in a leather hat’. And secondly his Pompey home is a cornucopia of Post-It notes with cryptic messages, colourful paintings, the odd half-painted tentacle and even when brewing a cup of tea in the kitchen you’ll find yourself nose-to-nose with a wooden flying pig.
What I love about Jon’s work is that his paintings, mostly acrylic on canvas, and their accompanying title tell a story. Sometimes these stories are complete, like his painting ‘VIP’ featuring a well dressed man with cactus skin. Other times the story is left open ended, such as the painting of a man fixing a light bulb that is dangling from the sky.
But an artist’s limitation is that for the purposes of cataloguing and selling your art, a painting can only have one title. So we came up with an opportunity to re-interpret and in effect re-name the paintings endlessly.
The writers in this collection are from our Portsmouth Writers’ Hub. Over 400 writers and artists are part of the hub facebook group. Our monthly hub nights sees regulars catching up at workshops, talks and socials to share their frustrations and successes. We also collaborate on theatre, book or film projects, attend each other’s book launches and create and participate in city-wide literary festivals.
This latest collaboration started on a warm July evening. We met at Waterstones’ new cafe in Portsmouth for a social and then launched in to a hub workshop surrounded by books, cups of coffee and cake. Two of our writers Jacqui Pack and James Bicheno stepped into the role of tutors and Jon brought his paintings and scattered them across the tables. The rest of us got busy free-writing using Jacqui and James’ creative writing exercise to guide us.
The idea of group free-writing was well-loved by Unrealism’s sister movement Surrealism early in the twentieth century, after Dadaism had run its course. We have included our free-writing exercises so you can use this book to do your own writing workshop at home, or with your own writing group. And if your spontaneous writing reads as jibberish and once written you don’t know what to do with it, you can always edit vigorously to carve out a short story, or just take out a character or a nugget to enrich another writing project.
But of course, you don’t have to be a writer to own this book. You can also just read it as a short story collection, or own it as a pocket-sized art exhibition.
We hope you enjoy Octomorphosis and our other unrealist tales. If you find yourself in the south of England do join us for a cup of coffee at one of our monthly hub evenings.
The book’s ISBN is 978-0-9956513-0-St