I just finished reading My Name Is Mina, the prequel to Skellig, by David Almond, one of my favorite children’s writers. The book is an intimate portrait of Mina, a creative and philosophical girl who loves to observe nature, reflect, and write. The story reads like a journal and is sprinkled with interesting exercises made up by Mina, which she calls “Extraordinary Activities.” Here are the ones that have to do with writing:
1- Write a story about yourself as if you’re writing about somebody else.
2- Write a story about somebody else as if you’re writing about yourself.
3- Write a poem that repeats a word and repeats a word and repeats a word and repeats a word until it almost loses its meaning. (It can be useful to choose a word you don’t like, or that scares or disturbs you.)
4- Joyous version: Write a page of words for joy. Sad version: Write a page of words for sadness.
5- Write a page of utter nonsense. This will produce some very fine new words. It could also lead to some very sensible results.
6- Write a sentence that fills a whole page. Write a single word at the center of a page.
7- Take some words for a walk. Find out what you’re writing when you’ve written it.
And here are two excerpts — extraordinary as well — from the book:
I’ll let my journal grow just like the mind does, just like a tree or a beast does, just like life does. Why should a book tell a tale in a dull straight line?
Words should wander and meander. They should fly like owls and flicker like bats and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing.
Sometimes there should be no words at all.
Just clean white space.
Some pages will be like a sky with a single bird in it. Some will be like a sky with a swirling swarm of starlings in it. My sentences will be a clutch, a collection, a pattern, a swarm, a shoal, a mosaic. They will be a circus, a menagerie, a tree, a nest. Because my mind is not in order. My mind is not straight lines. My mind is a clutter and a mess. It is my mind, but it is also very like other minds. And like all minds, like every mind that there has ever been and every mind that there will be, it is a place of wonder.
“So let’s walk,” she [Mina’s mother] says, “and think about a theory about walks by Paul Klee.”
“One of the great artists of the twentieth century. He said that drawing was taking a line for a walk.”
I thought about that, about the way a pencil point moves as you draw.
“So if drawing is like walking,” I say, “then walking is like drawing.”
“Yes, and if you think of it like that, it allows you to wander and to roam and to explore.”
“Maybe writing’s like walking as well,” I say. “You set off writing like you set off walking and you don’t really need to know where you’re going till you get there, and you don’t know what you’ll pass along the way.”
“So writing’s like taking some words for a walk,” she says.
Wonderful reflections, right? My Name Is Mina is a great little novel for creative minds of all ages, and especially for writers. Reading it will bring you joy and spark your creativity. I found it delightfully inspiring.