rebecca solnit

Practitioners of the City

‘Practitioners of the City’

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

walkers are“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking.” (Rebecca Solnit)


Think of somewhere you walk to often and write one single sentence about it.


The stimulus for this session is the activity above along with the questions below.

Of course, you can ignore questions you don’t like and you can add questions of your own that you like better.

* Obviously, some of you may use wheelchairs to get about. At The Safe House, we are sure that, if you are one of these people, you can still take part in this session. Please, let us know if you have any comments about this.

However you get about, the next time you do, you could think about these questions:

Where do you go? Why do you go there? Who do you go with? How do you feel as you walk there? Why do you feel this way? How often do you go there? How long does the journey take? Does the journey involve other forms of transport as well? What are the sights you expect to see when you take this walk? Do you take the quickest route? Do you always take the same route? Do you take a detour from the quickest route? Why? Are there parts of the walk that you particularly like? Are there parts of the walk that you dislike? Do you walk quickly? Or slowly? Do you usually have an animal with you? Why?

You could use any of these questions to stimulate your writing.

You, the writer, will decide.


This is about your world. Maybe, when you go on the walk you could remind yourself of the questions before you leave. Then, as you’re walking, you could make notes, either in your head, in a notebook, on your phone, whatever.

When you are ready and in a good location, choose just one of the questions and write a sentence in response to it. A single sentence.

It could begin:

‘I go there because …’

Or … ‘I go with my … and we …’

You might start like this:’ ‘I sometimes take the long way round so that …’

Or you could write: ‘I always see the … with its …’

Or … ‘I don’t like the bridge because …’

Or … ‘I always feel … because …’

You, the writer, will decide.

Word count and process

It’s just a sentence, so we’re probably not talking much more than 50 words. It could be really short.

When you have thought about your walk and noted answers to some of the questions, choose one and write a sentence as your answer.

Take a moment. Read what you have written. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words.

Take another moment. Do the same again. Then check your sentence for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your sentence make sense?

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

The length of the thinking process depends on the length of your walk, of course. And other things. The writing of the sentence should maybe take not more than around 10 minutes. You might do it more quickly.

underpassWhen you have written a sentence, of course, you could pick another question and repeat the process. That way your writing might build up into a longer piece. You could transform your writing by changing it from first person to third person. Write about your own walk from the point of view of an ‘external’ narrator.

What next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!