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Exercise Eight: Street Life

The Art of Writing Fiction Michael Wheatley

‘Your aim is to notice things in your immediate neighbourhood, and this might take one of two forms: you could either describe something you see every day, setting it down for the first time; or you could look to describe something brand new.’

Exercise Eight of Andrew Cowan’s ‘The Art of Writing Fiction’ adds yet another layer to the thousand-layer trifle of journals as we observe life on my street. For this exercise, it is suggested that you note down an occurrence on your street – however mundane – each day.

As with the previous exercise on weather reports, I have also recorded and included varying times for this exercise to try and build a broader picture of the (lack of) activity on my street.

Below are four records taken from the past week:


Exercise Eight: Street Life

Monday, 18th June 2018, 4:05pm:

Outside the front window the street is empty. From afar, a blend of indistinguishable voices, perhaps children and parents, call out. A low groan signals the traffic from the main road.  All is accompanied by birdsong. Trees rustle. On the corner where there used to be green stands nothing.

Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 10:40am:

On the opposite end of my road now sit two white vans. One, like a Russian doll, could fit in the other. It is on the corner where the woman who taught me reading lives. There is a blue and yellow skip occupying their front lawn. The van driver is young, wearing jogging trousers and a hoodie to match the skip. There are two older men. From the skip they withdraw wiring.

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 4:35pm:

A sprinkler calls in syncopated sound from a bordering garden. Birds burst from the trees which sway steadily. Next door, my neighbour opens his back door with heavy effort. The grass is home to occasional fallen leaves. Two doors to the left, I hear Melanie in her garden. The birds sing the familiar turn of this week.

Saturday, 23rd June 2018, 12:30pm:

Ants have burrowed to the surface today as buds begin to bloom in pink. On the birdhouse-penthouse, seed is scattered around a bowl of water. A dog barks far to the west while in the east a young girl cries. Flies buzz by refuse. The dog grows faint.



Another enjoyable and easy to maintain exercise. Though some of my observations make no sense, for instance me declaring ‘indistinguishable’ voices which I then distinguish, it’s a nice way of creating some colourful writing in a short space of time.

It will be interesting to see how long this exercise can be continued, however, as my street is devoid of interesting things. When I move, however, the stillness of these observations may contrast with the environment of London.


Next: Workplace

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