Elaine Forrestal

What to Write when you Don’t Know What to Write

A single toadstool can spark so many ideas

I was staring blankly out of my office window, thinking about everything and nothing, and feeling like a kid in school again. Remembering that feeling of despair when the teacher has set your class the task of writing a story by the end of the period. ‘But Miss, I don’t know what to write about,’ I complain. ‘Of course you do,’ she tells me. ‘Everyone has a story to tell.’

I’m still gazing out of the window and suddenly there it is – a tiny toadstool. I’m sure it wasn’t there an hour ago. Or perhaps it was. Has it just pushed itself up, pristine white and shiny, out of the soil of my chaotic forest of a back garden?  Or has that heavy shower of rain we’ve had washed it so clean that it’s just caught my eye? That single toadstool standing perfectly straight, all alone amongst the leaf litter and wood violets, sends me off on a fairytale journey. There are so many questions in my head now. Like who lives in this single toadstool in the middle of a wilderness? Is it a tiny elf or wizard? Is it a crusader beetle setting off to do battle with a whole army of snails who are invading his territory? Perhaps one of those snails is on an impossible quest to find the perfect green leaf. Will it shelter for the night under the pure white roof of the toadstool. Or is that roof gleaming so brightly really a trap for weary travellers, luring all unsuspecting creatures into the poisonous interior of the toadstool?

So many ideas come from simple moments of surprise, if you let your imagination roam for a while and you are willing to try out the possibilities. The Tim Winton Awards for young writers are a great place to experiment with ideas. The annual competition is open for entries from Monday 20th July to Friday 14th August, 2020, at 5.30pm. For more information go to: www.subiaco.wa.gov.au