The Naming Game

10th November 2021
3 min read
4th January 2022

A creative exercise on noticing the things around you, taken from Lucy van Smit's A Writers' Journal Workbook.

A Writer's Journal Workbook

The secret to a brilliant writing practice starts with noticing.

And naming the things around you.

It sounds so simple, but this daily practice tunes you like a radio station into your writing life. The Naming Game is a simple way to take the first step, it brings you into the moment.

Don’t rush this step. It is astounding how grounded you become as a writer when you pay more attention to your ordinary world, and when you take a moment to notice how you respond to it.

How you feel about things and life events, what you notice about them, is what makes you a writer.

This skill develops quickly and becomes more nuanced over time. Walking down a familiar street fascinates you anew. You can feel yourself waking up, and you will effortlessly begin to notice more complex things. You wonder about the words people choose to use, and how they move through their lives.

Example: you notice the man feeding pigeons so they poop on his neighbour’s car and you wonder what happened in his life to make him so difficult. You seek to understand, not judge.

Practice this first step of The Naming Game and learn to switch between your ordinary and a writer’s way of seeing. Picasso said when he ate a tomato, he just saw a tomato as a tomato. But when he looked at a tomato as an artist, he saw it as art. Rest your writer’s eye often, and remember to enjoy walking down the street just being you.


Writing Exercise: Where Are You?

In this exercise, I mean this quite literally. Which room are you in? Maybe you’re reading in bed or in a café or the kitchen?

Look up: what do you see?

Set a timer for seven minutes and write down what you see around you.

Don’t skip ahead; name and DESCRIBE things in your own words.

Starter sentence: I am looking at



Lucy van Smit is an award-winning author, a screenwriter, and an artist who regrets selling off most of her paintings to pay the rent. After boy trouble, Lucy dropped out of Art School for a year, ran away to New York and dared herself to sell encyclopaedias door-to-door in America. She got her BA Hons in Fine Art, blagged a job in TV, travelled worldwide for NBC News, flew on Air Force One with President Reagan, got surrounded by tanks at Manila airport during a coup, before she chilled and made documentaries for Canadian TV on writers like John Le Carre and Ian McEwan. Lucy is dyslexic with a Distinction in MA Creative Writing. Her debut YA novel The Hurting (Chicken House) won the inaugural Bath Children’s Novel Award. One of six siblings, Lucy lives in London.

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