Every now and again in Old Friend from Far Away, Natalie Goldberg throws in a little test. These are multiple writing prompts that you write on for two or three minutes each. It is a fun experiment to flex your writing muscles. Let’s do one today!
Here’s what she says about the test:
Here is a test. The good thing about it is all answers are correct. Right off the top you receive an ‘A”.
You have two or three minutes to answer each question. Make sure you are specific. Nothing vague. You might want to begin each answer with ‘I remember.’
Ready? I’m going to share all the prompts with you, but only some of my writing responses cause…well…cause it’s my blog and I can! Don’t skip any though…you can do it! Here we go!
- The first one: give me a memory of your mother, aunt, or grandmother. If it’s an aunt say her name, for example, “I remember my aunt Gladys…” Be detailed. Here’s mine for example:
My aunt Margaret was a brash drunk of a woman. Her wealth made her lack trust for anyone around her, especially young children and she yelled about as if we were all servants. She loved roses. Her roses were the most beautiful bushes I’ve ever seen and like her, screamed the warning, “Behold my beauty! Beware my thorns!”
- Give me a memory of the color red. Do not write the word “red” but use words that engender the color red when you hear them. For example, ruby, tomato, fire, blood.
His Chuck Taylor’s waited at the end of his feet begging for notice-signature shoes that shared his name and shouted Arkansas school spirit. He wore them always with matching Umbro soccer shorts, even when it was cold. They matched his nose when the sun would bake it or the cold wind would chap it.
- Give me a memory of a sound. Again, try not to use the word “sound” in your writing. Here’s an example:
The hum of the generators was a lullaby at 2 am, especially when the fate of the world rested on my alertness. The low rumble of it vibrated the seat I was in and made everything else feel quiet and peaceful. While watching for the end of the world, I leaned my head against the padded wall and thought, “I will just rest it here for a while.”
- Give me a picture of a teacher you had in elementary school. Two minutes..
- Tell me about a meal you loved. Where were you when you ate it? What was the weather like out the window? How old were you? Who were you with? Two minutes…go!
- Last one, tell me about a time you remember rain. Rain might not be the main focus of the memory, but write about a time when it was there with you.
He offered me his umbrella as we climbed the hill to our next class. I was reveling in the feel of summer as it dropped on my skin I told him. He looked at me as if I was a walking poem- desire lighting his eyes and closed the umbrella. He turned his face to the sky, but he couldn’t be free so he opened the umbrella and continued to walk beside me. It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
So what’s the point here? What are we trying to learn? Nicole is teaching us to use our senses when we write. We didn’t write about smell, so right now, list ten smells you remember. Be specific. For example:
- Wet dog
- sage and onions
- Charlie’s sweat
- buttercream frosting
- spring after rain
- Aunt Lora’s house
- old books
- White Shoulders perfume
- baby poop
- perm solution
This is what Nicole says about using your senses when you write…I love it:
Naturally, you are not going to cover every sense every time you write a scene. But doing this “I Remember” test is like acupuncture pricks alerting your mind when you write. You go along describing something and then-ah yes, Snow was falling wet as my heart when I asked her to marry me. The word becomes bigger. Your love includes weather now- and feeling.