By Sonya Lara
As writers who juggle busy lives, it can be easy to tell ourselves that we have nothing to say or that we have writer’s block and put off our important projects. But that’s simply not true. Sometimes, taking a moment to read another artist’s work is the inspiration we need to open our laptops and begin writing. Below you’ll find four writing prompts, inspired by some of my favorite writers, to help you achieve your writing goals:
- Read: “I Remember” by Joe Brainard and “when i say Chicago” by Nate Marshall.
Writing Prompt: Begin writing your own list of “I remembers” that revolve around memories in a city. Focus on a city that means something to you (where you’re from, a place you’ve lived briefly, a place you’ve visited, etc). Consider the following questions as you write:
- What details are important about that place? When you tell people about that experience or memory, what’s important for them to know?
- What smells are unique to that place? Are they good smells? Smells that remind you of home, a certain person you met there, family, your favorite food? Were there bad smells?
- Are there certain images (like monuments, statues, restaurants, buildings, etc) that are a key part of that place or your experience of that place? What do those things look like? How did they feel? Could you touch them?
- Close your eyes for a minute as you think back about the last time you were there. What was the emotion you were feeling? Were you with people or by yourself?
- What did that place sound like? Were there animals or birds around making noise? Cars, bikes, skateboards, mopeds making sound? What languages were spoken around you? Did you ever hear someone laugh or cry?
- What did you touch in that place (the felt seats of the subway, the silver forks at a restaurant, the crosswalk button, etc)? What did those things feel like?
- Read: “Note: Vaporub” by José Olivarez (you can even listen to him read it here).
Writing Prompt: What’s something in your life that is a fundamental part of who you are that could help paint a picture of your life to someone else? Consider items you use every day. If you can, focus on something that’s used in your house/your life that’s beyond or outside of what it’s typically known for. How do you make an item personalized to you or your experiences?
- Read: “Bedtime Story ” by Yasmine Ameli.
Writing Prompt: Were you told any bedtime stories as a kid? What stories do you remember? Why do they stick out to you? If someone asked you to tell them a story, what would you choose to tell them? What might you describe? Are there any family histories that have become legends or stories that are brought up during holidays? What experiences might you want to tell people about? Consider following Ameli’s form: X’s full name is X. Y tells me THIS (insert fact or story here) about X. X did this (insert job, hobby, etc). Once, X did this. Once, X did this. Once, X did this.…
- Read “Iron” by Elizabeth Acevedo.
Writing Prompt: Look over all your previous writing exercises/pieces and choose the one you struggled the most with. Mimic Acevedo and focus on everything that piece is not. What images or feelings are not what you were feeling/seeing in that piece? Write a list of what wasn’t a part of that experience or memory. What repetitive line might you use or add to your piece to help push it forward? Consider mimicking Acevedo with “I am not….I am not….I am not….”