Stretching the Muscles: The Inkwell with Vanessa Gebbie

April 16, 2020
a blank sheet of lined paper on torn out pages

In this edition of The Inkwell, Vanessa Gebbie shares her tips for stretching the writing muscles

Hi all, 

I hope you had fun with the game we posted last week. It’s something I use myself a lot – useful not just for playing, but for getting you over a ‘stuck’ spot, and much more. An example – the title story of my first collection got stuck half way through. I knew what I needed to write would be difficult for personal reasons, and I put the story away. 

Over a year later, someone introduced me to the concept of allowing lists of words to help in such situations – and bingo – this game allowed me to finish it – and each word on the list is still there, in the closing pages of that story. 

This week, another game – and I hope you find this one fun, and maybe useful too.

First, you are going to make a few lists.

  • 10 names you like, male and female, nicknames, whatever. 
  • 10 names you dislike, ditto.
  • 10 words you love the sound of
  • 10 words that seem ugly to your ear
  • 10 random objects.

Line your lists up alongside each other. Here’s the first few lines of mine:


Can you see how, as you read along the lines,  the combinations start to shimmer, the words attach themselves to each other, or repel, and possibilities begin to suggest themselves? 

A great game to share in a writing group, to do on your own, just to stretch those tired old creative muscles. Have fun, and let me know how it goes – I’d love to hear from you!

Find me on twitter @VanessaGebbie and let me know how you get on.

Read more from this blog series: The Inkwell

Vanessa Gebbie is a novelist, short fiction writer, poet, editor and writing tutor with ten books out there somewhere – including Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt), editions i and ii, for which she was commissioning and contributing editor. She has taught for The Arvon Foundation, The Arts Council,  London’s Spread the Word, The Word Factory, Curtis Brown Creative and New Writing South among others. She is self-isolating in Sussex.