The Thing and the Other Thing

I’m always on the lookout for anything related to writing: writing prompts, writing quotes, really cool pens, great journals, thoughtful inspiration, and the list could go on. As I celebrate my graduation from my MFA program (graduated this past Saturday!!), I’m excited to share a writing prompt that I got from one of my last classes in the creative writing program.

In order to understand the prompt, it’s important to understand that a piece of writing has to be about more than just one thing. All good writing has layers. To help us try this concept out, our course instructor asked us all to add a “thing” to the dry erase board as we entered class. The board filled up with loads of words: anger, tree, ponytails, hamburgers, nervous energy, ketchup, television, fragile egos, etc., etc., etc. Then she told us to pick two (or more) things and free write on those words for about five minutes. The goal was to take two or more seemly disparate things and try to weave them together. Some people wrote entire little stories during that time, and others drew word webs, crafting the outline of what would later develop into a story. I was impressed with how creative and how layered our work had become in just five minutes.

If you are looking for a good prompt, I recommend picking two or more things and just free writing for five minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with (and the layers you’ll unearth!). Here’s what I crafted in five minutes with the words hamburger and untamed hair:

I don’t eat hamburgers at restaurants anymore. They just seem super greasy, fatty, yucky. I prefer them cooked on a grill at home. Dad would strike a match, catching the charcoal on fire. I’d breathe in the BBQ smell and watch as he placed patties on the grill to sizzle and cook.

It’s the cooking of hamburgers that I remember most from an early date with my now husband. But at Dr. B’s house, we cooked deer burgers. Well, actually, deer steaks. Dr. B lit the gas grill and put the meat on to sizzle. Then we sat together on the porch in the twilight. It must have been my wild, untamed hair that dictated what came next. Dr. B has a thing for long, blonde locks, and as the steaks heated up, so did we. Lost in our own world, the excess of smoke from the grill brought us back to reality. Our meat was burnt to a crisp, but that’s okay. It’s just the way I like it.

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