Under Pressure: A Writing Prompt

There comes a time when writers are overwhelmed either by the circumstances of their personal lives, their jobs, or the challenges of the writing itself. Today, I’m thinking particularly of those of us who teach because, as is usually the case this time of year, I’m swamped. I won’t list everything I have to do—after all, I chose this life, and I know how blessed I am to have it—but I’ll ask you to trust me when I say I barely remember what it’s like to have time for my own writing. I’m nothing special; such are the sacrifices everyone in academia makes for the sake of their students and their profession.

I may be irregular with my posts until the workload clears. I’ll leave you with one more writing prompt in case it’s a while before I’m back with you.

A heavy workload can lead to stress, and stress can lead people to say or do things they don’t intend. Or maybe they do. Maybe they have thoughts and feelings about someone they usually keep buried under the protection of civility. If you’re writing creative nonfiction, can you recall a stressful time in your life when you snapped and said or did something that shocked, and maybe hurt, someone else? Write about it. What can you see now that you couldn’t see then?

If you’re a fiction writer, shape a narrative that leads to such a moment. You can create the moment in your imagination, so you don’t have to stay true to what happened in your own life. Let the thing said or done be the climactic moment, the moment beyond which things will never be the same for your main character.

So much of writing is about applying pressure. Put your thumb on yourself or your character and press down as hard as you can. See what consequences result.

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