Early Riser, Quick Starter: A Writing Prompt

I’m up early this morning—one of the curses of getting older—and it has me thinking about how familiar landscapes can be defamiliarized when viewing them at a time outside our regular habits. Things just look different. It’s as if we’re tourists in our own neighborhoods.

Which leads me to this writing prompt. If you’re a fiction writer, have a character rise well before their normal time, look out through a window, and see something that catches their attention and requires their action. What complication does that action create? Where might it lead?

If you’re a nonfiction writer, recall a time when you were outside your normal routine. Maybe you were awake well before your regular time, or maybe you were in a place not typically your own. What did you see that you’ve never been able to forget? Describe it. Then see what it suggests. Maybe it leads to a narrative, or maybe it suggests some other memory or image, and just like that you’re off on a trail of associative leaps common to the lyric essay. Or maybe that original detail leads to a poem.

The key to this prompt is to step outside a comfort zone. As you do that, either in prose or poetry, you’ll find yourself, or your invented character, becoming very observant. You’ll be inviting something out of the ordinary to drive your narrative or to spark the associations that will give you the content you’ve been called to explore.

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