I’ve been buying Christmas presents. In trawling the online bookshops for children’s books that my nephew and niece don’t already have, I came across one that I am already familiar with.
You can find it on the edge of the clearing in the forest where I hold the Wild Words workshop days here in France. It sits, alongside much heavier adult-oriented texts on psychology and writing, on the improvised outdoor bookshelf that is constructed from the thoughtfully angled branches of the grandest oak tree around. The book is ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. It’s a skilfully crafted story. As you read, the words fall like the rhythmic footsteps you make as you walk alongside the fictional family, in their quest to locate the bear.
“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We’re not scared”.
That optimistic tone is often what I hear from workshop participants at the start of a Wild Words day, often accompanied by a little nervousness.
In the book, as we journey deeper, and the explorers draw closer to the bear cave, the obstacles are increasingly foreboding, and frightening.
“Uh-oh! … a snowstorm, a swirling, whirling, snowstorm. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!”.
In our search for the Wild Words, as in any hunt for a wild animal, it’s true that unconsciously we’d do anything rather than come face to face with the void that is freedom of expression.
But, in the end, if we want to find flow in our writing, there’s nothing for it but to look those Wild Words in the face.
‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ is inspiring in this respect. This is especially true if, rather than head straight for the book, you watch Michael Rosen perform his own story.
The humour, the rhythm, the life of it. It’s a joy.
The Weekly Prompt
Imagine that your quest to free up your writing, or to be a better writer, is a physical journey in the real world. Write the story of this journey, in prose or poetry. What is the landscape like? What are the obstacles in your path? What do the Wild Words look like when you find them?
If you’d like to send me what you come up with, I’d be delighted to read it.
This article was first published on December 16th 2013