Posts Tagged ‘writing prompt’

Written by:
Wendi Friend
August 2005

A Writing Prompt

Writing letters is something some of us do, sometimes, as a way of making personal connections with friends and loved ones. More and more, however, with technology evolving and demands increasing, we’re much more likely to pop off a quick email or ring our loved ones up on the phone. In the past, though, letter writing was not only an art form, but was an intense recording of history in informal context. Letter writing was a form of communication, but was also a great pastime, as people weren’t afforded the luxuries of televisions, radios, computers, or video games. When one’s chores or daily tasks were done, there were a few choices for recreation: read, play music, or write.

One of the greatest examples with whom I personally connect is Abigail Adams, recognized for her artistic style, intelligence, and powerful presence in text. Mrs. Adams opened the majority of letters to her husband with the words, “My dearest friend.”

How nice would it feel to receive a letter today with that greeting in the header? Even in her first words of introduction, Abigail drew her reader into her grasp. Once captive to her attention, she’d then unleash an eloquent fury of opinions regarding everything from domestic issues to politics. Helping her case greatly was the fact that the recipient of her letters, for the most part, was her husband – John Adams, a powerful force in the political party establishing the United States of America. The letters written from Abigail Adams to her husband had a great part in shaping the US, particularly in regard to women and slaves.

Abigail Adams wasn’t the only person to write letters that would be remembered and/or cherished. In fact, there are volumes upon volumes of books created on Civil War letters, and other old letters of days past. For some reason, today’s people seem utterly fascinated and uplifted by the style, vocabulary, and living conditions of those who dared or cared to take the time to write down their thoughts and send them to a reader for consideration.

When is the last time you wrote a letter by hand to a good friend or family member? How did you begin that letter? If someone were to find that letter a hundred years from now, what do you think they’d learn about you and the time in which you lived?

When is the last time you received a hand written letter? How did you feel when you received it? Do you save your old letters?

Challenge yourself – as a writing prompt – to familiarize yourself with one or two treasures from yesteryear’s letters. They’re easy to find on the Internet or in libraries. Then, take an extra step and write a card or letter by hand to someone special to you. But don’t just write a letter; make it an art, make it a part of history.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend

Next time you’re sitting at odds with your muse, try setting down your pen and picking up a photo album. What may seem like a “lack of productivity” may actually produce a large range of benefit. Writers often try to overcome writer’s block by writing something, when actually, what we need to do is rest our creative brains, feed them, and allow them to rejuvenate. Sifting through old photos will not only occupy the writer during down time, but may also stimulate memories, characteristics, story lines and raw emotion, with which to return to writing.

One way to use old photos while writing is to pick one photo at random and begin your writing with the sentence, “I remember when….” Knowing that you’re simply strolling down memory lane for your own benefit rather than trying to create something profound for publication, you’ll be more apt to be honest with yourself and less concerned with your choice of words. Writing for and from personal experience, any number of things might appear before your pen runs out of ink, or your mind of ideas. Often times, we’ll uncover some sort of emotional blanket that has kept our creativity well covered. By exploring that emotion, we can then transfer it into a character or an article, or have it removed from the course as an obstacle. In this way, old photos can help us uncover the emotion that has been buried beneath the inner editor’s logic.

Old photos can also provide fascinating characters for our story line. For example, let’s say that you need a male character in his sixties who is quiet, but intelligent, dependable yet unpredictable and is comfortably nestled into a certain financial status. Maybe grandpa fits the bill! Maybe you have a picture of Uncle George that spawns the energy to write about an obnoxious character who smokes cigars and tells stupid jokes. We can never tell Grandma to her face how terrible her hairdo was last Thanksgiving, but we sure can slap that hairdo on a character and let other characters make fun of it for us. Using people in photos to enhance characters in fiction is a great way to keep the pen moving.

Reminising over old photos of family members and ancestors is also a remarkable mental trigger. Words fail me in attempts to describe the effects caused by stepping into the past and learning from our elders, but a thought process is stimulated in great force just the same. My favorite old photograph, as a child, was that of my great grandmother Olinger with her almond shaped eyes. She comforted me from her position in that picture. Her eyes told stories, which I could then transfer to paper with my own words and thoughts. Though the old photo was void of color and torn on the edges, to me, it was priceless. Faces trapped in time.

One of my personal uses of photos is to look at old photos of myself. By looking at where I’ve been and combining it with where I am, I have a better sense of self and direction. Sometimes, I’m blocked creatively because I’m dealing with a personal spiritual issue, having lost touch with myself. The only way to get back in touch with creativity, at that point, is to get back in touch with myself. Old photos is a great way to get that done.

Old photos don’t always have to come out of your personal collection in order to stimulate writing. Try picking up one of those seven year old magazines collecting dust on your bookshelf. Due to the dating, you’ll probably not find an article of current interest. However, by sifting through the photos, some image could stimulate a “then and now” or a “what ever happened to” kind of article or story. Seeing a picture of a flower in a gardening magazine might stimulate some creative masterpiece about nature. You just never know what ideas are waiting to happen.

Also, for a neat twist on old photos, try having your photograph done in “old west” style! There’s nothing like seeing yourself in a fancy lace gown with a wide-rimmed, flower-covered hat! Make yourself the character!

When you suffer from writer’s brain freeze, try resting your eyes from words and letting it absorb images. It changes the whole perspective. Believe it or not, there really are some pictures that are worth a thousand words.

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