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The Life We Could Be Living (If We Weren’t Living This One): July Write From Your Life

Updated: Sep 27


We’ve all made choices, sometimes seemingly small at first, that turned large in all they encompassed: moving to one particular town for a job that wouldn’t last, deciding to major in Australian history instead of photojournalism, going to an old cafe on a whim and meeting “the one”, or picking up a book at a yard sale that changes life as you knew it. Each choice leads to a place we wouldn’t have perhaps found otherwise. Each place, each person, each moment can lead to more variables, and so on.


For the July writing prompt, I suggest you get comfortable and do the following:


1. Write down another profession you might have enjoyed and pursued.

2. Write down another town, city or rural area (than the one where you live) where you could see yourself.

3. Jot down five small objects that catch your attention — things such as “hairtie, folding chair, gold leaf dangling earrings, plastic flower lying on a sidewalk, tiny nub of a pencil.”

4. Write an activity you enjoy — or would enjoy — doing but never or seldom do (ice skating? deep-sea diving? making bread?).

Now write a story of the life you would be living (if you weren’t living this one) in which you do the profession you named (#1), live in the place you name (#2), and one day — while doing (or preparing to do) an activity you enjoy (#4), you come across these five small objects (or at least some of them) in such a way that each object tells some part of the story about how you came to this alternative life.


I also share with you my own take on this exercise.


The Life You Could Be Living (If You Weren’t Living This One)


The life you could be living aches in its compression, tires of being a spark, an asteroid, a falling raindrop bouncing when it hits. It’s wound tight between muscle and sinew, lodged in the happy gaps of a synapse. It’s fluid like flowers. It sounds like geese out of sight. It’s marvelous as falling asleep when exhausted, and it foreshadows your dreams like a stray piece of sunlight or an unnoticed icicle.

Pull apart the paper vignettes and subtle understandings. Find a favorite shoe lost decades ago, a line to an old song, and behind that, the melody that once made you lift your arms and twirl in your childhood bedroom after dark.

This life startles you with its foreign tongue of traumas and kisses, its vulnerable eyes staring into yours for mercy as it lies down beside you, tries to say – although it doesn’t know your language – that it’s okay how it turned out, that it’s still here, and despite its wish to be lived, it’s not going anywhere.

(from Landed, forthcoming from Mammoth Publications, August, 2009)


Visit soon to see monthly writing prompts exercises based on the vibrant words of a Kansas or Great Plains author based on “Write From Your Life,” a monthly intallment of the radio show “High Plains in Words,” (where you can soon download podcasts of the show) aired on High Plains Public Radio. This page will be a welcome space where you can post your writing responses to each exercise, and sing praises for each others’ writing.

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