Writing Round the Compass


You can get lost anywhere it seems – in a forest, up a hill, in an airport, a French village or, of course, an actual maze. As we swapped notes at Saturday’s Write for Growth Workshop, each of us had experiences to recount.

Busy modern life urges us to look to the clock rather than the compass, but the latter is vital in helping us to set direction and keep us on track. Our workshop took the theme of ‘Writing Round the Compass’ as a way of re-orientating ourselves with a check-in on our life’s direction.

First, we looked South into the sunshine of joy, warm possibilities and creativity. We limbered up by writing about our imaginary skills. On the page we became fluent multi-linguists, inspirational painters or masters of the more fantastical arts of flight and time-travel. Stretching our imagination far beyond the boundaries helped us see creative possibilities that might only be a step away.

Looking Westward, we faced our sunsets, those aspects of our lives reaching their season of ending and where were being called to let go. We identified things had served their purpose, the clutter both around us and within. and wrote good-bye letters to recipients as diverse as regretted decisions, anger and chocolate.

Next we turned East, scanning the dawn for new things emerging in our lives. Endings completed brings space that allows for fresh growth. One participant described it as a ‘fertile emptiness.’ We recalled past beginnings made and all that went with them: excitement, apprehension, the energy of engagement and the willingness to be patient with those early stages of feeling ‘all fingers and thumbs.’

Sometimes we make definite starts; at others, we gradually become aware that something new is emerging around us or within. Taking time to write about our current beginnings tuned us into both levels, enabling us to nurture the process more consciously. ‘There’s always more to learn, isn’t there?’ commented one person later.

Finally, we looked North. North is the direction of the Pole Star that keeps the compass-user aligned and on course. Here, we focussed on the things that sustain us – the values, inspirers, guides, experiences, vision and beliefs that energise us on our life-journey. We prompted our reflections by looking at Serbian poet Ivan Lalic’declaration-lilacs poem, ‘Spaces of Hope,’ which you can read here.

For the speaker, the ‘spaces of hope’ are specific experiences recalled where for him, ‘light grows.’ His faith holds that other such sustaining spaces lie waiting in the future ‘already destroying the void.’ The speaker sees them as random, with no links to integrate what lifts his spirits, from ‘wind in a wild vine’ to the late-flowering lilac. Yet by arranging them in poetic form, these spaces of hope are given ‘a unity’ of shape and personal meaning. In response, we gathered our own selection of sustainers and spaces of hope into the form of our own alphabet poems – a challenge to creative ingenuity!

The clock had the last word for the morning as time ran out on the workshop, but several said they would return to the compass model for further writing. After all, you need to keep checking in with your compass if you want to avoid travelling round in circles.


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  • About Julia


    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

    Read more about Julia
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