Relics & Writing: September Writing Prompt

Sometimes you just need something to hold onto.

Sometimes you just need something to hold onto.

I keep thinking of our last Write NOW! session, and how magic it was to focus on solid objects for inspiration—in this case, a collection of beach stones and their relationship to some quirky family traditions, but that’s a story for another time. Writers at this session meditated on the idea of objects as relics with their own histories and came up with so many great ideas for applying that evening’s inspiration to their regular writing routines, one of which was to find an object (relic) in their own home and tell its history, whether real or imagined. I think this was you, Daniela?

Amen to this! AMEN. It sounds too simple, but sometimes you just need something to hold onto. A solid, three-dimensional something to spark an idea, a scene, or sharpen a character’s needs. Try this and tell me what you think!

Ready to write?

  • Find an object in your house that tics the following boxes: 1) It’s no bigger than your hand, 2) You don’t really pay much attention to it on a regular basis, 3) It’s got some interesting details.

  • Re: the above—I encourage you to pair up with a writer-friend for this exercise and swap objects so that the object is totally foreign, but you don’t have to.

  • You can pick a nonfiction or fiction path here—an object with sentimental value will bring on the memories, an object you’re not as attached to—or don’t pay much attention to—has more potential for an imaginative history. So pick a path now and let that dictate which object you choose.

  • Sit down with your object and write: What does this object look and feel like? Does it make any sound? How does it feel in the palm of your hand? This is a warm-up, so flex your writerly muscles and write for 4.5 minutes. GO.

  • Now....come back for Step 2. Ready? All right.

  • What is this object’s history? Where did it come from? Who does it belong to? Does it live with its rightful owner? Or was it stolen? Write for 6.5 minutes.

  • Return for Step 3. What does this object mean to its owner? Write a scene in which you observe this object’s meaning/purpose as a detached bystander. For this exercise, you could write from the POV of a minor character in your work-in-progress and observe another character in action. Questions to consider if you’re stuck: Does the object’s purpose have something to do with its origins (where it was found)? How does its owner move (describe their body for us—how does their body convey their emotions)?

  • For this scene, try to write for 14 minutes. Set a timer to push yourself. GO FOR IT.

  • CHALLENGE: Do it all over again same time next week with a new object, OR a swapped object from a writer-friend.

  • Want to share a discovery from writing this story? A weird, amazing, surprising turn of phrase? Reach out to me on Twitter.

Wild Words: August Writing Prompt


Remember the last time you encountered something wild? A hawk perched on a telephone pole? A lizard on a lonely hike? A possum who decided to take up residence in your garage?

It might not be so easy this time of year, but think back. When did you see something in the wild (the wilds of a park, your backyard, or even a city street) that surprised, unnerved, or delighted you?

Ready to write?

  • Jot down a few encounters. The lizard, the hawk, the fish, the spider, the mouse, maybe even a bear. Take three minutes to list a few wild encounters you’ve had before reading further.

  • Now. Pick one encounter and focus in. Write about the smells, sounds, and feels of that moment. Describe it in detail for 8.5 minutes. Set a timer if that helps you to write it out.

  • Now....come back. Ready? Okay.

  • Pause. Focus in on the wild thing you’ve met, no matter what it is. If the creature could say one thing, and only one thing to you, what would it be? Write for three minutes.

  • Return for the final prompt. Take a nice, deep breath. Ready? Okay.

  • Take the 8.5 minute scene you wrote about your wild encounter and flip the POV. Write from the perspective of the wild thing—describe what the wild thing senses: smells, feels, tastes, sees, hears. Write from the wild thing’s POV for nine minutes and see where it takes you.

  • Want to share a discovery from writing this story? A weird, amazing, surprising turn of phrase? Reach out to me on Twitter.

Writing & Weirdness: July Writing Prompt

This summer I’m working with teaching artists at Badgerdog Creative Writing Camp through the Austin Library Foundation. This means stocking supplies—markers, glitter, cool calendars, stickers, more markers, gluesticks, crayons, oh my!—and in the midst of toting boxes, I found this weird little friend on the sidewalk. I'll be honest. I have no idea where he came from.

Here's my question: do we get less weird as we get older? Do we lose some ability to truly write in the moment, harnessing whatever weirdness comes our way?

SO. WHAT IS THIS LITTLE GUY? The subject of a fun writing activity, that’s what! Kids all over Austin are writing about the wackiest things this summer at camp; why should they have all the fun?

Ready to write?

  • Imagine finding the little creature in the pic. You've just scooped him off the sidewalk. What do you notice?

  • Pause before reading further and write: describe everything you can about this creature--what is it made of? How does it smell? Does it make any noise? Stretch your muscles a bit. Write for four minutes. GO.

  • Now....come back for Step 2. Ready? Okay.

  • Imagine you've just scooped up your new treasure, and someone comes running toward you saying, "You found it!"

  • Pause before reading further and describe this person for six minutes. What are they wearing? How do they move? How do they sound?

  • Return for Step 3. Your final prompt? Nowwwwwww, go! What does this object mean to this person? Write a scene in which you discover the truth behind this treasure by having a conversation with its owner. Write for 12 minutes. Set a timer to push yourself. GO FOR IT.

  • Want to share a discovery from writing this story? A weird, amazing, surprising turn of phrase? Reach out to me on Twitter.