Group Writing Projects

4×4 Sources Of Writing Inspiration: Group Writing Project

I was tagged a few weeks back by Valeria Maltoni at Conversation Agent in a post she called “Revealing Yourself To Others” (gulp!) The idea of the tag was to share some secrets about yourself, set out in a 4×4 format: four headings, each with four things.

Valeria added her own twist to this by revealing things that were about her business perspective rather than personal revelations (an approach I broadly share, especially for those of us writing business blogs).

Her tag came with a twist and a challenge too, to see if I could turn it into a group writing project.

Well, I can’t resist a challenge and I thought it might be fun to see where this one takes us.

Like Valeria I’ve taken the format and applied it to what I’m working on here at the moment: the theme of writing and inspiration.

My 4 x 4 things are all about sources of writing inspiration (or its opposite), or words and writing that have inspired me. Have a look at them first, then I’ll explain how the project will work:

My 4×4 Sources of Writing Inspiration

4 Places That Demand I Write

I have a strong sense of place - it’s probably my most powerful source (and not just for writing). The places that have worked the most magic are:

1. Skye: inspired my first book (Short Walks on Skye)

2. Arran: inspiring photos just now - the words will follow

3. Mexico: inspired my first blog (Unfolding Stories)

4. Places In Between Places: trains, ferries, bus journeys… always get the words to flow

4 Unspiring Things That Dampen My Writing Inspiration

I wasn’t sure what the opposite of inspire was (more on this next week). But I came across this shorthand form of “uninspiring” which seemed to capture the mood for me.

1. Things that are labelled as ‘motivating’, ‘inspiring’, ‘inspirational’. I resist being told what to think, do and feel. This was my main reservation about pursuing “inspiration” as a theme for this month.

2. Seeing my words come out as cliches, knowing I’m trying too hard. = time for a break.

3. Getting stuck in ‘broadcast’ mode, talking not listening - both when I do it, and when it feels like others are too

4. Language of necessity: should, have to, must

4 Quotes That Give Fuel To My Fire-Breathing Writing Dragon

1. “At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want” (Lao Tzu)

2. “It is never too late to be what you might have been” (George Eliot)

3. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” (Oscar Wilde)

4. “You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?” (Rumi)

4 Poems That Inspire Me To Live Life On Purpose

1. “Let’s Take A Break” by Stephen Dobyns

I think I stumbled across this in a newspaper. I cut it out and kept this verse above my civil service desk for a very long time before I made my exit to some exotic land.

“Let’s take a break. Let’s exit to some exotic land
Where fat mice snooze beneath sombreros and at sundown
Owls swoop from the palm trees crying: Quien, quien?”

2. “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

This poem saved my bacon. I’ll tell you about it… some day. Here’s the last few lines:

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

3. “Late Fragment”

by Raymond Carver

Requires no explanation. Here’s the whole poem:

“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.”

4. “Entirely” by Louis MacNeice

I keep this verse pinned up on my noticeboard. I hope I’ll get the message eventually.

“And if the world were black or white entirely
And all the charts were plain
Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters,
A prism of delight and pain,
We might be surer where we wished to go
Or again we might be merely
Bored but in the brute reality there is no
Road that is right entirely.”

4 x 4 Sources Of Writing Inspiration: Group Writing Project

I hope that gives you an idea of the format this project will follow… Here’s how I think we can make it work. To take part:

  • Share 4 lots of 4 things on the theme of writing and inspiration
  • You don’t need to follow these headings: there are zillions of possibilities (4 blogs, 4 books, 4 authors, 4 people, 4 teachers, 4 pieces of music, 4 paintings and so on)
  • But please stick to the format of 4 x 4 and the theme of writing and inspiration
  • Post your contribution by 28th March (midnight, your time)
  • Let me know you’ve written your piece, by linking to this post, leaving a comment on the post, or contacting me

I’ll then publish a set of links to all the entries in early April, and, depending on how it turns out, will try and find some way to publish a compilation of the material you come up with.

Because that is what I think might be most interesting (and yes, inspiring) about the project - the chance to learn more about each other, to find what inspires us, to learn what helps us to write, what sources we turn to, what resources we already hold.

I’m also offering a small prize (based on a random draw of entries), a book again - can’t resist them.

This time it’s The Writers’ Block: 786 Ideas To Jump-Start Your Imagination by Jason Rekulak. A useful resource for those times when we’re running low on inspiration.

I can’t think of any more ‘rules’ (I don’t like rules, most unspiring), but should add one thing - this started life as a meme, so if you want to play your own version of 4×4 based on anything you want, please do. That’s the idea of memes after all.

But if you want me to include the results in the final group writing project you’ll need to follow the guidelines set out above.

Okay, I think that’s everything. I look forward to learning more about what inspires you to write!

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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29 Responses to “4×4 Sources Of Writing Inspiration: Group Writing Project”

  1. On March 14, 2008 at 1:06 pm amypalko responded with... #

    Count me in, Joanna! I’m inspired already :-)

  2. On March 14, 2008 at 5:06 pm Shari responded with... #

    I like this project. I’m actually going to try my hand at it. Thanks for passing this on.

  3. On March 14, 2008 at 6:07 pm Brad Shorr responded with... #

    Great idea for a project. Count me in!

  4. On March 14, 2008 at 6:52 pm --Deb responded with... #

    You know, strictly from a knitter’s point of view, I always find it interesting that “Arran” is almost always spelled “Aran” when you’re talking about those cabled, fishermen sweaters (jumpers). I don’t think it’s just on this side of the ocean, either, as I’ve gotten any number of knitting patterns from GB that talk about “Aran” pullovers.

    So, which spelling IS correct for those islands, anyway?

  5. On March 14, 2008 at 7:31 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Amy, Shari, Brad

    Great! I’m hoping this will be a nice and easy (but also interesting) project for people to chip in to. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.


    As far as I know it’s because the jumpers come from the Aran islands (off Ireland), rather than the Isle of Arran (off Scotland). That’s what wikipedia tells me anyway.

    Arran certainly doesn’t promote that style of knitting - other lovely specialities instead like cheese, oatcakes, whisky, yummm…

    Hope that helps!


  6. On March 15, 2008 at 5:12 pm Valeria Maltoni responded with... #

    Writing gets better over time. Many things in fact do. Thank you so much for picking up on the challenge, Joanna. This is very inspiring and it taught me a lot about the things you value. All your quotes resonate with me, I read Wild and Rumi extensively.

    Looking forward to following the progress of other writers!

  7. On March 16, 2008 at 1:19 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thank you Valeria for your comment, and the most interesting tag. I enjoyed writing my own piece, and thinking of a way to turn it into a group project.

    It’s interesting how these tags do get us to ‘reveal’ something about ourselves - my choice of words, poems, places, quotes felt very important as I was selecting them, and I learned something about myself as I was compiling it too.


  8. On March 16, 2008 at 11:48 pm Jeanne Dininni responded with... #


    This writing project looks fascinating! I’ll have to mull it over for a bit and see what I can come up with…


  9. On March 17, 2008 at 8:44 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Jeanne, I hope you’ll manage, it’s got a nice structure which makes it easier in some ways to write - but also draws out some interesting answers, for your readers, and yourself, as I discovered!


  10. On March 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm captainstardust responded with... #

    i love this idea! and i think as a writing exercise it may be just the jump start i need to get into a proper blog of my own. thank you for sharing it!

    moreover, thank you for sharing the poetry snippets. i am a devourer of good poetry, and i had never heard any of these before! right now my library (my workplace) is gearing up for National Poetry Month in April, and there are going to be poems posted all over the library for patrons to enjoy. these have just joined the list. =)

  11. On March 20, 2008 at 5:02 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Captain Stardust, so nice to see you here, and I’m touched that my poetry excerpts will be featured in your library… how our words weave together like this, it’s fantastic.

    I hope you do manage to write a piece, a group writing project’s a great way to start because you get links too, and other participants will pop by and visit your piece - very motivating

    Don’t forget to let me know when your piece is done so I can link to it in the final round up


  12. On March 21, 2008 at 9:43 am Robert | reason4smile responded with... #

    Hi, thanks for the opportunity…
    Here is my contribution…×4-lists-of-my-writing-inspiration/


  13. On March 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thanks for taking part Robert, and I look forward to reading your entry.


  14. On March 24, 2008 at 7:55 pm Dale responded with... #

    Thanks for the idea, Joanna. I’ve a response, here

  15. On March 25, 2008 at 9:42 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Dale, thanks for joining in. Your piece was fantastic, really.


  16. On March 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm Catherine @ Sharp Words responded with... #

    This was a great idea, Joanna, and quite a challenge as far as I was concerned. I’ve finally finished my piece though, and it’s at×4-inspirations-for-writing/

  17. On March 26, 2008 at 4:12 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Catherine, thanks for taking so much time and thought with your entry. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about you and what inspires you (as well as what gets in the way!)


  18. On March 27, 2008 at 9:50 pm Bob Loch responded with... #

    Thanks for the opportunity Joanna. Wouldn’t of joined without the inspiration of Robert Hruzek at Middle Zone Musings. Thanks to both. I can be found at×4-assignment.html

  19. On March 28, 2008 at 1:38 am Glenn responded with... #

    Wow! What a great project idea… and a lot more thought-provoking than I anticipated.
    Here’s the post:×4-group-writing-project/

    Joanna, thank you for the challenge and opportunity — this blog has helped me in so many ways over the past few months.
    - Glenn

  20. On March 28, 2008 at 8:49 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Bob, I’m so glad you could take part. Robert is quite an inspiration isn’t he? :-)

    Glen, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The exercise seems to have been a good prompt for self-reflection and I enjoyed learning more about where your thoughts and reflections are taking you.


  21. On March 28, 2008 at 2:40 pm This Eclectic Life responded with... #

    I found you via Amy Palko at Lives Less Ordinary. Thank you for hosting this project. I just had to enter my two cents.

  22. On March 28, 2008 at 6:21 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    I’m glad you did. Your entry was great. I’ll be publishing them all next week.


  23. On March 28, 2008 at 9:03 pm Shari responded with... #

    I had fun with this project! Thank you again for passing this on.

    My post is here:

  24. On March 29, 2008 at 3:35 am Holly responded with... #

    Deadlines are one of the best inspirations! Here’s my contribution, just under the wire:

  25. On March 29, 2008 at 10:48 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Shari, I’m glad you had fun with the project. I have really enjoyed reading them. Can’t wait to publish them next week.

    Holly, I’m glad the ticking clock got you to write!


  26. On April 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm poetryman69 responded with... #

    Try National Poetry Month for an inspiration. It seems to be working for me:

  27. On April 6, 2008 at 9:47 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thanks for reminding us about National Poetry Month. I’m glad it’s getting the words to flow for you.




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