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Object writing: A traditional writing exercise visits a Zumba class…

And things get fun (think colour, music, movement, goofiness, and an all-round sensory party!)

Confession: I’m not usually a huge fan of writing prompts. In my opinion, they’re like the veggies of my childhood—probably good for me, but bland and unpalatable (I was a kid inflicted with 80’s-era middle-white-Australian cooking which involved boiling every vegetable until it’s texture and flavour was indistinguishable from the soap scum hugging the inside of your sink).



What object writing isn’t.

Object writing isn’t a traditional writing exercise, like the one below.

          Prompt: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.

          Umm, numbers, numbers, NUM-bers. How long do I have to do this for? 10 minutes. Hey, 10 is a number.                                      Well, Ms 10, a number of newly found significance, tell me about yourself? ……………. Not real chatty today, hey?

At our April professional development session, Yvonne Mes took us through a writing prompt-esque exercise. The esque is significant, though, because THIS EXERCISE DIDN’T MAKE ME WANT TO CHEW MY HAND OFF.

Thanks, Yvonne Mes, for introducing us to the wonderful world of object writing.


Okay. But what is object writing?

It’s kind of like writing stream of consciousness but it gives you something to start with if your mind is feeling more like a dried-up puddle.

And unlike a writing exercise where you are given a goal to work towards, object writing lets your senses drive your words. You explore them all: sight, smell, touch, taste, organic sense (from your internal organs) and—the one I found most interesting—kinesthetic sense (i.e. your sense of the world in relation to your body). Like when you impulsively dive into a handstand trying to impress your nephew. Plot spoiler: neither your nephew nor your shoulder are likely to be impressed.

Simply put, you focus on an object or feeling and let your senses take over. Start describing it with each sense and if your brain starts going down a rabbit hole THEN LET IT CHASE THE RABBIT.


How do I do it?

  1. Pick an object. Any object.
  2. Describe it using all your senses.
  3. Scan through your description for the good bits.
  4. Arrange these into something fantastic (optional).


What’s the hardest bit?

For me, sifting the detritus into something useful was a challenge (step 4). Luckily, it’s the optional part. Personally, I think I’ll use this exercise more to keep myself in the chair when my mind feels blank rather than as an exercise to produce something standalone. But that’s not to say others can’t!

For instance, Steve Tyrell managed to herd his Zumba word-swarm into a brilliant rap, which is apt, considering object writing has its roots in songwriting. Here’s a snippet:

Parking ticket, press the button

Grab it, pack it, dime a dozen

Shirts with pockets are no more

Mine just washed up on the shore…

Give it a go. I dare you. And if you hate it, well, write about that. Because even those soggy vegetables don’t have to be wasted.


by Helen Gearing



Steve Tyrell’s rap song. Object – parking ticket.


Parking ticket, press the button

Grab it, pack it, dime a dozen

Shirts with pockets are no more

Mine just washed up on the shore…


Jellyfish squished between my toes

Smells like ocean, says my nose

Crashing waves upon the shore

Thumping, bumping, I want more.


Getting hungry, I want to eat

Fish and chips would be neat

Hot with vinegar, burns my lip

Oh no, I ate a lemon pip.


Sheri-Anne O’Shea’s poem. Object – marble.




Door wide

Light dim

Wood and incense

Come in


Gothic windows

Stone saints

Traffic sounds

Grow faint


Candles flicker

Brass glows

Empty pews

Creaking rows


Sweet flowers

Choir loft

Marble altar

Voices soft


Steps echo

Pews fill

Men and women

Colour spill


Babies cry

Rafters ring

Organ sounds

Choir sing


Lace veils

Cassocks sweep

Bells tinkle

Sinners weep


Peace seeps

Soul soars

Over seas

To far shores.


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