The First Prompt: A Photograph

Our first prompt will focus on a photograph. To begin, choose a photograph of yourself, preferably in print.

In preparation for this piece, we will start with a short memory-jogging exercise.

Firstly, write a list of everything you see in the photograph: no detail is too small. Keep a record of this.

Next, write a list of everything you cannot see. What is beyond the boundaries of the photo, just outside of the frame? Who is there, who took the photo? What does it smell like? What was the weather like (ect.)? No detail is too small. Keep a record of this, too.

Next, write what you think must have been going on in your head during the specific period of your life the photo depicts. Who were you? What were your relations with others? What was life like? What made you happy or sad? What did you want? How are you different now? (Ect.)

Finally, write a nonfiction piece in poetry or prose, that springs from the lists you have created for the exercise. It need not have a direct plot, but should utilize poetic language. Paint a picture of you and your life for us, here in our first prompt together. Share it in the comments below! 

Happy writing!

(This first prompt was inspired by my first creative nonfiction professor, a dear and lovely woman named K.T.)

6 thoughts on “The First Prompt: A Photograph

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  1. Stonemad

    This I understand well!
    It steeps in our Marrow

    it owns this fleshy meat puppetry some call vessel

    we cut away the very weight that allows us to swing to hammering to chisel

    K-ping K-ping K-pong

    soon we fall to grounds graceful slumber

    with eternal echos of hammer-chisel-stone serenading our souls

    Liked by 1 person

  2. haaaa I whipped this up! But i’ve been needing a reason to write this down, so thank you, Ecco.

    A photograph:

    There is no photograph although I could go home and take a picture. However, it would be a lame picture, seemingly meaningless; an empty wine bottle sitting in the recycling container, a dark green reminder of the memories of last night. The edge of the label is stained with spillage. We sat and drank, wine dripping down the sides of our stained lips, licking the sides of our glasses so as not to waste. As the thick maroon flows out of the glass bottle, along comes a flood of shared times together, the remnants of time that has since passed and separated into different lives. Friends who, at one point in time, did not know the other existed and who, now, feel as if we have grown up together.
    My friend Anya says to me, “Remember when you had just gotten back from studying abroad and you said to me ‘I don’t think I’m going to graduate. I think I’m going to drop out’?”
    And I did not remember but I am now sitting on Sam and Julian’s blue couch, my face buzzing with wine and cigarettes. We find ourselves sitting together in a joint memory, all reminiscing on the same passed moment in time. A sense of regret floods my head, stuffy with confusion and assumed defeat. I do want to drop out and leave school and work and live a simple life. I do not want to try. I do not believe that there was a spot for me in school. I am a sophomore, nineteen and admitting defeat before even attempting to find something worth my time in college.
    And Anya brings us back to the present, stating, “Look at you now! I’m so proud of you guys.” She means all of us, five friends sitting around a table. We have all known each other for at least four years, a seemingly long time when you have only been alive for twenty two.
    My cheeks turn bright pink and I can’t tell if it’s the maroon wine or my loss of pride, a tinge of disgust in being praised for something so seemingly small and arbitrary. Thousands of people go to college and thousands are published writers and professional cellists and distinguished professors. I am one in a sea of billions and it hurts my vulnerability to accept praise, to realize I have bettered myself; moreso, to admit that I was once less than I am now. My independence and lack of emotional presence learned during my teenage years comes back at the worst time. I can’t seem to unravel that part of my past self.
    My first instinct is to brush her comment off my shoulders and continue the conversation with another throatful of wine and a lame joke about my future failing career in English. I do not have book deals or teaching positions or orchestras begging for me to fill its position after graduation. I remind my present self hat the average ‘other’ does not, either. I remind myself again that I was considering dropping out, just minutes ago. I remind myself that I am going to graduate in five months.
    So I look at Anya and I say, “Thank you, I appreciate that. I’m really proud of all of us”.
    And to myself I say, so quietly that no one else can hear, “I’m proud of you, too.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emily! This is so vulnerable and honest and lovely. I appreciate you and your words so much, and am so grateful our lives crossed paths. I relate to so many of these feelings… but we’re doing it! Graduation here we come! And, on to simple things and complex things and all of life’s beauty and bullshit after that!


  3. My second-grade school photo. Snaggled-toothed, pointy-chinned and cheery-faced, hair a little messy, the collar of my blouse not tucked into my schoolgirl jumper. Why did my mom not notice that on picture-taking morning? I wasn’t pretty, but that didn’t seem to bother me yet. The world was still a good place to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good idea for a prompt. I have written short stories from photo prompts before, but always fictional ones.
    Personal recollections demand more honesty of the writer.
    Thanks for following my blog, which is appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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