May 20, 2014 Prompt #19
Joe Brainard’s classic “I Remember” writing prompt has been taught in class rooms for more than 15 years. You can read more about Joe’s life and work and the history of the “I Remember” exercise here. Below is a variation that has been a big hit in my writing workshops.
- On a sheet of paper, write the phrase, I remember…. on the left side of the first line. Skip three lines and write it again. Repeat this until you’ve written I remember nine times.
- Skip another three lines and write I wish… then repeat two more times.
- Beginning at the top, fill in the blank space after I remember with a sentence, phrase, or even a single word. For example, I remember the first day of the fair. I remember the last time I spoke to my brother. I remember pecans. I remember darkness.
- Work your way down the list, writing for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pay attention to the sound of your words, their collective rhythm and pacing. Try varying short and long responses.
- This exercise can create a stand-alone list poem or several spring boards for short stories, flash fiction, and narrative poems.
- Try reading the finished piece aloud. What do you notice?
How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing
- Builds upon memory, often ushering you into a place of deeper connection.
- Encourages experimentation and play.
- Re-read your piece and circle repeating nouns or verbs that repeat. What patterns emerge?
- Work the exercise from the perspective of someone else, either fictional or real.
Variations for Writing Groups
- Choose one of your completed I remember lines and expand upon it.
- Discuss one of the I wish lines with others in the group.
Thoughts on this writing prompt?