Symbols from the Past
This is the forty-second installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here.
In this week’s exercise, you will write about a symbolic object from your past for symbolic audiences. You will use the physicality of an actual object as a prompt to recall an experience in your past. Then, you will retell the story to various audiences, because the implied presence of others will affect your thoughts and ultimately, writing. This activity might yield different styles and voices than you’re used to – it’s creative play! And linking symbols to the past can clarify the experience’s meaning – an added bonus!
- On your desk, put a physical item that is a symbol from your past. It should be something you naturally associate with a certain event (letter, clothing, picture, toy).
- Freewrite for 5 minutes about that time. How did it affect you in the past and how does it continue to influence you now?
- Now write for 5 minutes about that same general time, but for a different audience. Choose an authority figure, someone you have a formal relationship with, but who was not in that story (judge, boss, FBI agent, parent). Explain to him/her this event. What were your thoughts and feelings then and now?
- Finally, write for 5 minutes imagining you will share the story with a close and compassionate friend. This friend should also not be connected in any way to this event.
- Now analyze how the stories are different.
How did you do? Did you feel different as you were writing them? Did some writing feel more genuine than others? Did one give you a new perspective on your experience?
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Source: Inspired by Pennebaker, James W. and John E. Evans. “Writing in Different Contexts,” Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. Emunclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, Inc., 2014, p. 87-92.