Weekly Writing Challenge: Object
We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and styles.
To participate, read the challenge instructions and write at least one post in response. Tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post to generate a pingback. Make sure your post has been specifically published in response to this challenge. We might just highlight some of our favorites on Freshly Pressed on Fridays, or in our monthly newsletter.
Today, we are delighted to publish a writing challenge written by a member of the WordPress.com community. Meet Andrea Badgley. She holds a B.S. in Ecology, but left that field to raise children and write. She writes creative nonfiction on her Butterfly Mind blog and, though she wonders if she’s crazy for doing it, she recently launched a second site, Andrea Reads America, where she chronicles her attempt to read three books set in each US state. Andrea grew up on the coast of Georgia and now lives with her husband and two children in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @andreabadgley or on Facebook.
And now, over to you, Andrea!
A Drought or a Flood
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to writing I often find myself in one of two places: 1) I can’t think of anything to write about, or 2) I am flooded with ideas, so many ideas that I am swept away in a riptide of ideas, and I can’t find a stick to grab onto; I can’t get my bearings to begin, so I don’t begin at all.
A piece of writing advice that solves both of these problems is to focus on an object. In the case of the idea drought, an object provides something basic to observe and describe, a starting point that might ultimately lead you into a deeper story. In the case of the idea flood, an object becomes your stick to grab onto, the anchor that holds you safe in the torrent and allows you to explore without getting swept away.
Simple objects ground many familiar works. From William Carlos Williams’s compact poem The Red Wheelbarrow, to the vignettes of the film Coffee and Cigarettes, to the sweeping saga of Donna Tartt’s new novel The Goldfinch, objects anchor great writing: a red wheelbarrow paints imagery, coffee and cigarettes set a mood, a painting of a chained songbird represents greater themes of captivity and beauty.
Begin with an object in mind
Objects are evocative; they hold stories. The writing challenge this week is to begin with an object. Take something small, and concrete — a thing, a noun — and use that as a starting point. You may simply want to describe the object: what does it look like, how does it feel, does it have a scent, a flavor, does it make a sound? Or you may want to use an object as a focal point to expand into something bigger. I wrote about rolling pins once, and a cookbook another time, and both led me into old kitchens, and musings of grandmothers, and recollections of favorite family meals. A piece on pie led me into my son’s Buddha soul. You never know where you might end up. Show us where an object leads you.
Looking for something more specific? Try one of these ideas:
- Look around your writing space. Pick three objects you see (or hear or smell or feel) and reveal them to your reader. How do they represent you? How do they tell your story?
- Treat yourself to an artist’s day out. Explore an antique shop, or an art museum, a botanical garden, a park. Find an object that resonates with you and write its story.
- Go into your kitchen. Pick an object, any object that sparks a flame in you (or puts one out) — a cookbook, a muffin tin, your grandmother’s cast iron skillet, a rotting banana — and write about it.
- Character sketch: If you are working on character development, think about your character’s stuff. What objects are in her desk drawer? His medicine cabinet? Her glove compartment? What objects are in your desk drawer, medicine cabinet, glove compartment?
- Prompt box: Using small slips of paper, write the names of 20-30 things you love: seashells, copper kettles, cumulus clouds, golden pastries, tattoos. Fold the slips and put them into a vessel — a box, a hat, a jar. Pull a prompt out and write for ten minutes about it. Keep your pen (or fingers) moving and allow all thoughts onto the page (or the screen), regardless of what your inner editor says. Use this prompt box whenever you are stuck.
Have fun with the challenge. Looking forward to reading your posts!