Prompts are everywhere all around you, all the time. If you have recently been startled awake from a dream, taken a bite out of an apple, crossed a busy intersection or lived another day, you have new material to draw from.
If you want to draw from the past rather than the present, firsts are fertile ground. First apartment, first kiss, first time leaving your hometown or state, first motorcycle ride, first funeral, first drink, first friend, first breakup, first boy-girl party, first prayer, first revelation.
And lasts. The last lie you told, the last action you regret, the last thing you gave away for free, the last time you betrayed yourself, the last time you fell in love, the last idol you worshipped, the last time you drove away from the job you loved.
I’m also a big fan of turning points, decisions, hinges, the crux of the moment. Why did you say no even as she tried to put the ring on your finger, or move cross-country, sight unseen. Why did you choose this college or spouse or state instead of another? What if you had not shown up on the day that changed your life? What happened when you did?
Maps are also packed with story. Every house/apartment/yurt/condo/hotel/tent you’ve ever lived in, each job you’ve ever worked, each car you’ve driven, each person you’ve dated, each person you wanted to date but didn’t.
Dig into the losses and disappointments and also—what went surprisingly well? What miracles have befallen you, what unexpected grace have you endured? A list of what you want to write about and a list of what you don’t want to write about ever in a million years is sure to get you somewhere. And what of people? Write 10 minutes about each family member, priest, friend, ex, rabbi, coach, student or enemy you’ve ever known.
How about a detailed list of things you remember and things you don’t? Write a list of the things you know and the things you don’t. Write about where you’ve come from and where you ended up. That’s sure to keep you busy for awhile.
excerpt from The Halfway House For Writers
Valley Haggard is the recipient of a 2014 Teresa Pollak Prize and a 2015 Style Weekly Women in the Arts Award. The founder and co-director of Richmond Young Writers, she leads creative nonfiction marathons, workshops and retreats for adults. Valley can be found online at: www.Lifein10minutes.comFollow us!
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