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.”