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Objects of Comfort - Creative Writing with Emily Wilkinson

After last week’s workshop on nature writing, I was looking forward to what Emily had in store for us in Session 2. Not least because of the subject - objects.

I love objects. Now, that’s quite an obvious thing. Of course everybody likes objects. ‘Objects’ includes clothes, candles, and cutlery. It includes your books, your jewellery, and your bed, and your instruments, and whatever else you may have. In fact, it includes EVERYTHING you have. But as far as garnishing our treasured objects with meaning goes, I’m big on it. I like a room full of things that have stories behind them, even if they’re stories that don’t really need telling.

So, Emily’s session this week was going to be an interesting one.

You can get a sense of a person by what treasures they pick to share with others. By the time everyone had showed up on Zoom, and realising you recognised not only some of the faces but some of the backdrops too, we talked through some of the objects we’d picked out for today’s moment of writing. Flowers on their stems, some dried twigs, a tuft of heather. A bag of skull beads. A woodwind instrument. A clipper lighter, an animal figurine, and lengths of ribbon. Some of it meaningful, some of it meaningless, but all undeniably the objects we’d picked to accompany us today.

There’s some comfort in the simplest of choices. Even picking one thing, anything, can yield some nice results - including random picks - especially when pushed to consider the that choice after the fact. Writing down a sentence or two about each thing we’d collected, I found, grounds you in even the most fleeting decision. You consider how it got here, and how you ended up with it. Is the thing important to you at all? Are you important to it? Does it contain a memory? Even if the thing really has nothing to say, do you have something to say in its place?

Now, the second half of the workshop had kicked in. It was time to put the string that Emily had also requested we bring along to use. To use in what sense?

We were to tie our objects together, to form one big object. I know, I know, I wasn’t convinced at first either, but this is where the magic of the session truly took place.

As I began wrapping an old pair of glasses and a guitar capo into one shape, then finding space for an old chopstick, a square of chocolate, a hand-mirror, and more, I realised something - I was creating. But it wasn’t the creative process I was used to. There was nothing intellectual about it, arguably nothing even truly expressive either. This was an

exercise in letting the strings and objects have complete creative control for twenty minutes.

The result, like last week, was in being able to totally let go and let simple problem-solving take over. When you stop fussing over if something looks good, and look instead to finding the next foothold to loop the next bit of string, you end up with an organic piece of craft. My collection, as it turned out, ended up jutting at a few angles, a bit like a sextant. Others ended up with bundles of sticks with a pleasingly jumbled look, and one woodwind instrument with a couple of pieces dangling from its end in a totally usable state.

We finished off the session with some free-writing about the bundles we’d just made, and the process, and the insight we’d just been exposed to. Sharing some snippets of writing later on revealed we’d all gone through a similar process - one of actualisation and a hint of self-exploration. But the one thing we’d all agreed on quite thoroughly? It’s surprising how mindful one can get with just a piece of string.

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