Confinement has become a way of life for many of us without so-called “mission critical” jobs. Those of us who can work from home are doing so, and while I initially thought working from home (on more than a one-day-a-week basis) would be great for my writing, I find that I’m spending a lot of time worrying about Coronavirus—for my family, my students, the country—and this worry is a killer on creativity.
I thought some of you might be in the same boat, so I came up a writing prompt that might help you generate some ideas and write something new.
- List 10-20 objects that are “confined” in some way. They can be temporarily confined, or confined long-term. (Some examples I can think of right off the bat: my cat is confined in my arms like a baby; a fish is confined in its bowl; a turtle in its shell; a letter in its envelope; our internal organs by our skin, etc.)
- Choose three to five you like the best and describe how the objects are confined. What is keeping them from escaping their captivity? You can be literal here or you can lean towards the fantastic. (In the case of my cat, what’s keeping her in my arms is the hope for many, many neck scritches and angel kisses. Also keeping her from escaping: Once she sits down, she’s there for the duration.)
- Determine the object’s “liberation quotient”—that is, how likely could it be freed from its confinement? What would it take for it to be liberated? Is it just someone takes the letter out of the envelope, or is the process more involved? What is an unexpected way the object could be liberated? Does it want to be liberated? How do you know?
- Find your connection. Think about your own confinement in terms of the three objects you explored. How is your experience of confinement similar or dissimilar from that of the objects? What resonances do you find?
- Read over the notes you’ve made, jot down any additional thoughts, and write a three-to-five part poem, flash fiction, flash nonfiction piece (one part for each object) that uses these images in a creative way to explore our (or our character’s) relationship to confinement.
I’d love to read what you came up with, so feel free to post your piece in the comments field!