Walking around Beach Haven, New Jersey last Wednesday, I came upon this fabulous house. Over the next week, walk around your own neighborhood (or a new one) and find a house, townhouse, or apartment building that captivates you. Stand or park in front of it for 5 to 10 minutes, writing down notes on what you see, hear, and feel.
Later, expand your writing by responding to one of these questions (or one of your own.) Let your imagination run wild on this one.
Imagine a quarrel between two people who live there.
Imagine a perfect day at home for one of its residents.
Imagine how the house looked the day that the current owners moved in. What were they thinking, worrying about, anticipating?
From small towns to big cities, window displays hold a special allure. For this prompt, stand in front of a window display for 5 to 10 minutes, writing down notes on what you see, the display’s design, who its intended audience might be, and most importantly, your emotional response to it.
Later, expand your writing by responding to one of these questions (or one of your own.)
What emotions does the window display bring up for you (or your character)? What does the window seem to promise?
If you could own one thing in the window, what would it be and why?
Imagine stealing one item in the window? Who would steal it? Why?
Is this the kind of store where you normal shop? Why or why not? If not, write about walking inside for the first time. If so, write about passing it by.
Today’s post builds on yesterday’s This I Believe prompt, offering follow-up exercises and options for writing groups. If you haven’t already read my May 21 post or listened to or read sample essays on theThis I Believe website, do that now.
Choose a value or activity that is not one of your core beliefs, then write a convincing essay celebrating your deep conviction of it. I, for example, might write, “I believe in boasting.” or “I believe in the redemptive power of American Idol.” You can take on another persona as you write or write in your own voice. Write for 20 minutes.
Reviewing what wrote, can you see any actually core beliefs emerging from your non-beliefs? Is it freeing or unnerving to write passionately about something you are not actually passionate about?
Variations for Writing Groups
Each member writes down two core beliefs (one per index card) and puts them in the middle of the table. Members randomly choose one to write about.
If you are writing fiction, write a “This I Believe” essay in the voice of one of your characters.
Perhaps you’ve heard This I Believe essays on NPR or Bob Edwards Weekend. This I Believe is now an international organization that encourages people to write about their core values. You can read and listen to hundreds of these essays on their website.
For today’s prompt, you’ll write (or begin to write) your own “This I Believe” essay. This exercise not only gives you the opportunity to think about the beliefs that guide you, but it also prompts you to shape your thoughts into a well-crafted work.
For three minutes, free write words and phrases that come to mind when you think about what matters to you. For example, you might write Traveling widely, Choosing kindness, Being unpredictable, or Surrounding myself with family and friends.
Next, for five minutes, think about concrete examples of these core beliefs. Don’t be afraid of making odd connections; in fact, sometimes, the odder the better. “I believe in power of balloon animals” could be the perfect lead in for writing about kindness. Or, if you believe in surrounding yourself with friends and family, consider actions that demonstrate this. You might write, “I believe in celebrating birthdays — with 100 of my closest friends and relatives.” Or, “I believe in Family Reunions.”
Finally, writing for fifteen more minutes, flesh out your ideas. Experiment, expand, and shape your story.
Bring together the conceptual and concrete. Use specifics to ground your essay, yet don’t be afraid to celebrate or uphold your beliefs with heartfelt or even noble language.
Try different tones: playful, earnest, contemplative.
Tomorrow’s Post: Suggestions for “Further Writing” and “Variations for Writing Groups.”