251: Introduction to Creative Writing: Exploring the Genres
Office Hours: MWF
Return to Journal Assignment
Make a list of the
memorable events in your life. Some
of them will be large—a death, a breakup, some goal you finally
But list small things, too, things you’ve always remembered as
important in some way.
an object that you associate with a particular
family member. It might be a baby blanket, a pipe, a bathrobe, a
hearing aid, a
pair of glasses, a black dress etc. Use your description to create a
of the associated family member.
about the first experience with death that you can
remember, whether it involved a person or an animal. Then write about a
recent experience with death. Try to combine the two.
a list of mundane activities not usually thought
of as erotic—washing dishes, or the car, mowing the lawn, going
to the dentist.
One you are finished, create a list of nouns associated with that
Then make a list of verbs and adjectives that you associate with sex.
everything together, and make the mundane activity sound orgasmic.
something that you would never show to anyone, that
you are afraid even to put down on the page. Get it out, as much of it
possible, in as much shameful or horrifying detail as you can manage.
feel free to tear it out of your journal or burn it (not the journal,
are obsessed with certain “triggering” subjects.
Richard Hugo often writes about towns, Sylvia Plath obsesses over the
image of her
father, and Li-Young Lee touches down again and again on the image of
of your own triggering subject (sawmills, children, cats, graveyards,
create a list of unusual, common, silly, sensible assumptions. You
imagine for instance, that the boy playing war in the park sandbox with
children believes he is least heroic. Of you could imagine that a
is three years sober and the only person the town can count on. Make
sure to focus
on one subject and once you have created a list of assumptions about
subject, write a poem or story incorporating lines from your list.
images obsess you? What do you think about when you are
daydreaming? What kinds of images do you find yourself returning to or
out for comfort? What object, person, place, picture could you think
hours and not get bored? Look at one of your obsessive images and
intimately. Make sure to jot down sights, sounds, tastes, smells and
associated with the image.
an activity—cleaning the house, fishing, painting a
picture, bathing a child, dancing, cooking a meal—which could
serve as a
metaphor for your life, how you are in the word.
a number of sentences that seem to follow the
conventions of a story, but don’t tell a story. Use words
suddenly,” “then,” “finally,” and
whatever else you notice about how stories
unfold; but make the plot nonsensical.
keeping a notebook or tape recorder by your bed for a
week, and jotting down dreams, or saying them, as soon as you wake,
still vivid. Don’t try to do anything more than record them, in
as much detail
as you remember.
a poem, essay, or story that speaks to you, something you
wish you would have written. Once you make your selection, try to
imitate it closely.
Replace nouns with your own nouns, verbs with your own verbs, and so
worry about losing your voice. Chances are, even if you attempt to
entire work word for word, it will come out differently. It’s in
difference that the work becomes your own.
following three-step prompt to help jar your memory:
1. Create an alphabetical list,
line for each
letter in your journal.
2. For each letter, write down
the first word
to an early childhood experience. For example, when I look at the
letter A, I
think of axe because I grew up with a wood stove and would often watch
father split wood in our backyard. If the exercise reminds you of
haven’t thought about since childhood, all the better.
3. Pick a word
and use it to
describe the way you feel about
a particular memory. Don’t tell us how you feel—trust your
tell us everything we need to know.