Writing CNF at The End of The World: Prompts 

By Taylor Portela

As we continue to ebb at whatever threshold of the pandemic we’re currently at, the importance of archiving my life has become more important – not only so I can rest my queer mind with having some type of creative afterlife, but so I can begin to come to terms with who I’ve become through solitude, through exchanging bodies (of friends, colleagues, and lovers) for books and papercuts. 

I’ve always been the type of artist who mines their life for art. Imagination comes easiest to me when I’m on stage or at the mic, so when I approach the page, I first read through old journals, scroll through my Instagram archive, or call my parents. Something to spark an idea of how I can encapsulate the past through my present to give myself, my art, a future, especially when it all seems so up in the air. When I’m so close to graduating, moving to a new city, and leaving lives and decades behind. 

While I write towards healing and processing, I’m a messy gemini. I enjoy sharing the seedy details of my secrets because it helps me feel in control of a life I’ve often felt I’ve lost control of. 

Here are some prompts I’ve used to help me write about my life. In the vein of CA Conrad, I always try to make a ritual of what I write through so that I can engage both my body and my mind:

1. Find a book you loathe and destroy it. Eat the pages, burn the spine. Pour hot water over it and watch it bulge and splinter. Write about what you’ll do with the scraps. How will you care for them?

2. Think about your most shameful secret, the one you refuse to remind yourself of. Write about it as bluntly and concisely as possible, recreating the moment alone, in the mirror. Watch you watch yourself, and write about this act of self-witness. Then let this moment go (or write a whole book about it). Dance, scream, make music. Sleep. 

3. Tally all of the people you’ve honestly fallen in love with but have never told. What’s your memory of them that keeps them in your life, your mind? Write about the banalities you shared, the passing blackout fragments. 

4. Who’s one person in your family (given, chosen, extended) that you’re ashamed to be related to? Write about how your stories are intertwined, how through (un)choice your relations implicate the both of you. What do you do with the weight of this responsibility? 

5. Why do you love yourself, or how might you learn to? Write about a moment when you put yourself first, caring for yourself and your needs without not silencing yourself or breaking your own boundaries. 

After writing through these prompts, drink water, make a snack, smell something that makes you go “ooooooh,” take a bath, and then go outside to pet plants. Watch stars fade. 

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