Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing Prompt: Memory Box

Post by Susan

Photo by Susan Vittitow Mark

In June, I found myself in Ohio with my siblings, dividing up my late parents’ possessions. It’s amazing to me how much stuff accumulates -- things that only held value because they held meaning for the person who owned them. There were plastic statues of the Virgin Mary, broken rosaries, plastic Christmas plates and homemade ornaments. Once home with the box that had been pre-packed for me, I discovered that someone had saved my hair in a photo envelope when it was first cut short between 2nd and 3rd grades -- a gesture I found both sweet and slightly disturbing when I pulled it out. It mattered to someone.

Which brings me to my writing prompt. I love prompts that involve a physical item, because I believe it jogs different synapses in the brain. I also like something where even if I am bringing the prompt, I will still be surprised. (If I have only a written prompt, I have to fight the urge to pre-write in my head before I meet up with my group.)

For this prompt, each member of the writing group should bring a box of some sort -- preferably a decorative box. Something with about the same interior size as a cigar box or a little smaller is good. Now fill it with odds and ends such oddball jewelry, ticket stubs, small toys, knick-knacks, souvenirs and any other items that catch your fancy. A fairly random assortment is good. It’s okay to put in things you value since you’ll get your box back in the end. Thrift stores are a great source for both the box and its contents.

Now, when you meet, exchange boxes. Open the one you’ve been given. Ask yourself who might have owned this box? Why did they save these things? Where did they get them?

Now that you’ve had a glimpse into their memories, write about them for 15 minutes and share with the group. Return the box you received to its original owner.

What items would the memory box of your life hold? What might someone else imagine about you if they saw it?

Visit Susan Vittitow Mark at her personal blog, Bindweed or Bluegrass, or connect with her on Facebook.


Lynn said...

Let's see, in my box you'd probably find: A tiny silver bear from a broken necklace, bought during a trip to Alaska; a postcard of Hat Creek Station in Niobrara County; a frog-shaped cookie cutter. Lord knows what anyone else would make of these items.

The thing I love about writing prompts is they teach me that I can start anywhere, with anything, and write something. Often those bits of writing take off and become an essay, a scene, or just the image I need in a short story.

Jenny said...

We just went through an estate sale process for my mother-in-law, and I had many of the same feelings. The memory box prompt is a great idea. Mine would have ticket stubs and smooth rocks and maybe those single earrings I can't seem to get rid of :-)

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