This site is full of creative poetry/art exercises that aim to bring pleasure back into using words and writing. We welcome the participation of you and your child, please have a look at the list of contents, or the blog archive and try out any of the exercises that you like the look of. We welcome your comments on the success (or otherwise) of the idea…

Monday 1 November 2010

Background notes for parents and teachers

Sometimes words can freeze up, especially if they’re being written onto a snowy white page. Writer’s Block is a famous term, that conjures images of a desperate author reaching for the vodka, but it is a problem that affects many schoolchildren too. The problem is usually a combination of self-consciousness and lack of confidence. Those two things make a formidable block. But one of the best ways to get around a blocked path is simply to use a new route.

This blogsite is full of ideas for taking a sideways step around problems with writing. By using exercises that can be played like games, the anxiety that adds to the problem can be defused. Creativity has always been close kin to playing – and musicians actually do ‘play’, of course. We’ve collected many techniques that are used by contemporary artists and writers. Some, like concrete poetry, cut-ups and Oulipo strategies are rarely taught in school, which gives them the advantage of freshness. They are playful, but are also subtle tools for self-expression.


The Boys Can Write blog isn’t tied to any curriculum or syllabus, it is designed to aid people find delight in writing. It is especially for boys who have hit that cold, blank wall of the page. The fine-tuning of spelling, grammar, etc., will follow once enthusiasm has been established, but they are not the first hurdle and we don’t attend to them here.

We have worked with hundreds of young people in Primary and Secondary Education. Many are illiterate, some are in danger of exclusion, many have special needs, trauma, or are vulnerable in numerous ways. By making writing a kind of play, we’ve helped them explore their own ideas of beauty, anger, humour, sadness and hope. You can view examples of our previous projects with children, on our portfolio site: Inscape: a stone walk  Eyebright Pilot  Eyebright and A brain of a dream of a dog.

Inscape, a stone walk

This site is illustrated with examples from past and present arthur+martha projects, as well as an ongoing diary of experiments documented by Lois and her son Joe.

The most important technique of all is to let pleasure be the guide. This is brainstorming. Dump the idea of things being ‘right’, ‘wrong’, or ‘un/successful'. All of those things will reassert themselves soon enough (and oh how rapidly they race back in). But for this work, take a holiday.

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