Lost Property

What it’s good for: A nice little warm-up before your Writing Proper begins, or a useful exercise for anyone teaching memoir or life writing. 

Time taken: how long is a piece of string? 

Imagine your very own Lost Property office, where everything you’ve ever owned, smelt, touched, heard, tasted can be found on the shelves.

If it helps, visualise the room itself (dim and dusty with cobweb bunting, or bright as a new pin – totally up to you). Begin with an item you owned as a child, then another, and another, and so on, and so forth, as if you were making an inventory. One memory should lead to another…

The hair slide Benny from Crossroads gave me. The little brown envelope my pantomime wages came in. The darned toes of my first and last pointe shoes. The blue nylon frill on my leotard. The GA on the tunic tops we wore in netball…

The family of ducks that waddled in front of the car in the middle of one of our arguments. The boots I bought as a joke and fell in love with. The moon over Earlham Road that Friday afternoon when every house seemed to have its own story. Jeff Buckley singing ‘Corpus Christi Carol’. The first time I saw Lucy. The ruined cassette tape with my 9 year old voice on. The pink bulb in my bedroom in London. The little red coat I gave away…


Develop the exercise by:

  • selecting your favourite item and using it as the focus of a ‘quest story’ (like the ring in Lord of the Rings);
  • selecting your favourite item and giving it magic properties (the cassette tape can record someone’s thoughts; when you’re wearing the little red coat you are temporarily twelve years old again);
  • selecting your favourite item and giving it to a character in an existing story or scene in your novel;
  • creating a Lost Property Office for one of your characters.

Happy writing!

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