Fill a Jar: Writing Challenge

“The magical view of language, in a nutshell is that the word is part of the thing it stands for–the word contains some of the juice or the essence

or soul of the thing it points to.”

Peter Elbow in Writing with Power

This idea came to me whilst taking a walk on a misty morning. I was thinking about a jar of pebbles I have collected and what will it take to get me to stoop down and pick up a new one? What makes me pick up that pebble and not this one? What makes some bit of writing more appealing, more tangible than another?

This challenge is designed for those who haven’t written before or are convinced they don’t have time to write, or that they must be polished writers in order to write. It has several different variations so feel free to adapt it to suit:

  • Write a word, phrase, sentence, or thought on a piece of paper, fold and place in a mason jar, box or other suitable container
  • Do this whenever you think of it—just a word or sentence when the mood strikes you
  • The snippets can be descriptive of any subject of your choosing
  • They could be memory images such as my piece: Hands in the Mud
  • They can be something you heard, read, saw, smelled, ate [I could imagine recipe titles, book titles, quotes…]
  • Could be a turn of a phrase you liked, a clever rythme, a haiku, descriptions of [fill in the blank]
  • Could be something you imagine your ancestor saying
  • You can make these completely non thematic (random)
  • Or you could choose a theme like my “grandmother Carrie”, “my childhood”, “my great uncle” or “a favorite place”
  • Whenever you think of something jot it down


When the jar or box is full, take all the pieces of papers out and type them into a blank document. You have now written something! And so that is one hurdle put behind you. If you picked someone you knew you might have quite a few memories or descriptions about them. Are there any themes?—can you rearrange the lines to make a poem or story or is a list sufficient? Can you use these random bits as inspiration? Do you have some lines that you really like?


If you used the Random or non-thematic approach, can you organize the slips into themes? Are there things you tend to gravitate towards? If so take note because this is where your energy or passion may be found. is there anything that makes you want to write more? Is there any magic here or do they read like a census description? Analyze what you like or what is missing. If you like nothing but one slip of paper throw out the rest and start adding to that one as you hone your craft.


Use the slips of paper as fire starters, otherwise known as writing prompts. The idea is to make writing fun, playful, and something that you look forward to doing. You can be serious or silly, that’s up to you. Make up your own version—just can’t use the excuse you don’t have time, you don’t know how to write or you have nothing to say.


You can even take pot shots at your writing if you’d like—my writing is as flat as my newly pressed shirt. My writing would make great bird-cage lining. Let your critic have free reign– if that’s what’s holding you back. The critic eventually gets tired and your creative self can take center stage. Remember writing is a process. When the process works the magic takes hold and you lose yourself. If the critic sits like a punitive school master on your shoulder you won’t be able to tap into the magical. You can brush the critic off or outwit the critic by doing a bit of ducking and weaving. The only time the critic is your friend is at the very end of the writing project. Until then, “not now!” should be your mantra to your critic.

Fill the jar, find out who you are! If you can’t write, what are you afraid of exposing?

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

2 Comments on “Fill a Jar: Writing Challenge”

  1. Good Morning, Kelly

    I’m sitting in my study listening to the howling winds and seeing the ice and snow on this frigid morning. We’ve had several beautiful spring days in a row but winter is reminding us she is not done.

    You have certainly been doing a lot of writing lately. I just want you to know how much I appreciate it. I love how you ended Lulu’s diary series. I was fascinated about the Irene Fryer story. That newspaper article was really something! What a life she must have had.

    Take care.




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