Dear 2012… a writing exercise

… this is what I loved about you!

Recently I was lucky enough to co-facilitate a writing and personal development weekend course with Alison Piasecka at the Philidelphia Institute in London (R D Laing’s old centre..!). Here’s Alison showing us all how to draw a labyrinth.

It was a great space, with good feelings, and we worked everyone very hard (and well!), but this was one of my favourite exercises we did so I’d like to share it with you now as the year comes to an end.

The idea is to pinpoint certain moments of the year – not just any moment but the ones that gave us pleasure.

So first of all, make a list of twenty things that give you pleasure, not just this year, but generally. These could be small – finding a hat that makes you smile – or large – finishing a marathon. And of course, this is partly the point. For you, finishing a marathon might be an everyday occurrence. For me, actually finding this hat might be a huge thing. Make your list as personal as you can. And yes, only twenty. I’m mean like that. (Oh, and take as long as you like, I’ve a hat to admire…)

Now, tick off all the ones that you’ve done this year. This isn’t to make you feel bad although it can be useful to spend a moment reflecting on why this might be. HOWEVER, this exercise isn’t about dwelling on what went wrong.

Because now I want to show you some of the beautiful prose poems in Gary Young’s book, Pleasure. Here’s are two..

When I step in from the deck after smoking a cigar, my wife glares at me and says, you stink – but I can’t resist. They punctuate the routine drudgery of a day, and not with a comma, but an exclamation point, a smoky ellipsis of desire… Robusto, torpedo, maduro: we need a Romance language to talk about cigars. Buckley once handed me a fat Cubano, a Romeo y Julieta made in a factory where a worker reads poetry aloud while the others roll. I could taste the difference. A cigar is never just a cigar; it’s a wet kiss, a tongue in your mouth, and both of you burning.


I bought eggplants at the farmer’s market, long and slender, the deep purple reserved for nightshade, castor, the garden’s poisonous brood. I was admiring the eggplant’s waxy skin, its tender flesh, when a farmer thrust a tomato into my hand. I bit into the firm, red fruit, belladonna’s passionate cousin, and ate it under his watchful eye. He looked at me and nodded, as if he knew how far I’d go for pleasure.

Lovely, eh?

What I did then was to split the group into pairs. They had to pick one of their moments of pleasure from 2012 (using their list) and concentrate on that. One of the pair had to ask questions – what did it feel like, was there a smell, how did it taste? The idea was to JUST ask questions, not to come in – however tempting – with how they enjoyed those moments too or to talk about their own moments. Then we swapped over. One person listening, the other talking.

If you don’t have a pair to do this with, you can freewrite. Go through the senses, really remember what was around you, where in your body did you feel the pleasure, what did you like most about. Really like most about it. Remembering again this is YOUR personal opinion. No one will judge you if your happiest moment of 2012 was when you sat on a bench on your own and stared into the distance. Can’t you just feel the waves of contentment coming from this woman I snapped this Spring in Avignon?

Now craft your moment (with as much added detail as you feel necessary) into a prose poem like Young’s. Don’t go beyond the moment, don’t add justifications or excuses, don’t prettify it. Just tell how it is.

The whole exercise can take you as little as fifteen minutes. You can even give these pieces as presents, or you can hug them to yourself. And you can go on and do one more. And another…

May your festive season be full of pleasure – in whatever way feels best to you!

3 Responses to Dear 2012… a writing exercise

  1. What a great idea and a brilliant note on which to end the year. I’m going to do it with my sister-in-law when she comes to stay as we always have a kind of yearly round up and this sounds the perfect way to do it!

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Dear 2012… a writing exercise