May 3, 2014 • Exercise #2
15 to 20 minutes
I just got off the phone with a long-time writing friend who reminded me about this playful writing exercise: “Interview with a Plant.”
I first wrote from this prompt on a hike sponsored by Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. The instructions were to sit near a plant and “interview it,” posing questions in order to increase our awareness and appreciation. For instance, “Why do you grow in this particular place?” “Does any animal nibble on you?” etc.
After listening to the instructions, I asked, “And what if the plant answers?” The group laughed, but I decided to give voice to the plant — in this case, a Curly Cup Gumweed.
At the end of this post is my interview, which you can read before or after you write your own interview. Choose whatever plant appeals to you — from a towering tree to creeping moss to an indoor spider plant.
- Spending two minutes staring intently at the plant. Move around it. Look at it from above and below, if possible.
- Make use of your senses. Touch its leaves, stem or branches. Listen with your eyes closed. Sniff.
- Aim for six to ten questions.
- Find an interview style that suits you. Need ideas? Imagine you are a reporter from the Washington Post or from a small town local news station or an elementary school newspaper. How would your questions differ if you were writing for the Sierra Club, Midwest Living, or Agriculture Week? What would Oprah ask this plant, what would Steven Colbert ask, what would you ask?
Again, if you are currently working on a book, you might pose your questions from the point of view of one of your characters or connect it to a theme you are already exploring.
How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing
- It may help you break through writing resistance and start writing.
- It offers a point-of-view you might not have considered before.
- It’s a brain-stretcher!
- It encourages you to be outside and connect with nature, which, in my book, is always a good thing.
Take one of your interview questions and rewrite it at the top of a new page. Expanding upon it, write for 15 more minutes. Be fanciful, seek metaphors, incorporate it into a larger story or go off into a whole other direction.
Have fun and have at it. Ready, set, write!
Interview with a Curly Cup Gumweed
© Ellen Orleans 2009
Q. For the record, what is your official name?
A. Grindelia squarrosa. This is your language, not ours.
Q. Why are you gummy?
A. To trap aphids and weevils. To screen the ultra violet. To stick in your thoughts.
Q. Why are your petals yellow?
A. To entice the bees. To thank the sun.
Q. Why are your leaves serrated?
A. I once was in love with a plant named Holly.
Q. The scent of your resin reminds me of the Ponderosa Pine. Are you related?
A. She grows not far from here.
Q. Why do you have curly tendrils on your globe?
A. To spread the resin. To entrap our enemies. To honor our ancestors, the furled fern.
Q. But why are they so beautiful?
A. To whet your wonder. You marvel, don’t you?
Q. How do you feel when children push your sticky cups together?
A. Their fingers will remember us all day.
Q. What’s inside your globe?
A. Milky stems. Pearl bulbs. My flesh. Fields to be.