Grit in the Oyster

07 Jul 2023

I first discovered how pearls are formed when I visited the Jersey Pearl shop in St Ouen several years. They have jewellery arranged in large treasure chests; they have loads of exquisite samples - some tiny and delicate and some the size of a tennis ball; and they have a very nice coffee shop. But what I found most of interest was a presentation entitled "How Pearls are Grown". Until then, I'd not really thought of pearls as having been grown.

On that day I found out that pearls are organic gemstones. They grow inside oysters and are essentially made of calcium carbonate. They actually start out as grit that gets into the oyster's shell. To protect itself, the oyster secretes a shiny, silky substance called nacre (also known as "mother of pearl") to cover the irritant and wall it off from the rest of the organism. Nacre is the same substance that lines the inner portion of the shell. Over time, the oyster continues to secrete nacre to accommodate the sand until it forms a pearl.

So essentially, pearls exist as a defense mechanism against an irritant. One of the most precious of gems starts out as the grit in the oyster. And through perseverance or resilience, from a grain of sand we get a pearl.

I was thinking about this remarkable transformation this week as I pondered the essence of the Decamot concept: Take 10 perfectly ordinary, but disconnected items, and put them together within a coherent story. It's a simple technique, yet one that we've used to inspire over 200 short stories, four screenplays, two short TV dramas, three plays and eight Talking Decamots - a veritable creativity generator! We're currently using the same technique to write an episodic novel.

What is it about this technique that so sparks the imagination? Perhaps you could think of the ten Decamot items as being like the grit in your imagination's oyster. Two or three disparate words juxtaposed fire off a new idea for a story. You see where the story goes for a while, and then slowly you add extra grit (the remaining Decamot words). As you do so, you have to mould your emerging story to accommodate them. The process might stimulate an idea in the back of your mind that just won't go away, and you just can't simply ignore. By the end you find you have written something quite unique.

Why not give the Decamot technique a try by writing a story that contains the following items:

string of pearls, spark, chest, coffee shop, generator, St Ouen, tennis ball, mould, mercenary, grit

You might be surprised about what you come up with. It almost certainly won't be what you expected to write when you started the exercise. It might require a little polish. But it might just be a string of pearls.

Go back