Friday Fun-Day Writing Prompt: Object at Hand

TGIF, readers and writers! Today I’m going to borrow a writing exercise from the virtual summer school I attended for my Master’s program last year. In this exercise, you will be writing a short prose piece or poem about an object that you “have to hand” (the tutors’ words, not mine). Think pencil, ladle, orange, etc.

Spend ten minutes meditating on the object and jot down notes regarding your observations. Don’t just look at the object; engage all of your senses with it. This exercise is meant to help you learn description and imagery beyond what you see. What does the object feel like? Sound like? Smell like? Of course you should observe what it looks like as well but don’t limit yourself to that. What sort of feelings do you associate with the object, both through your senses and through your emotions?

After those initial ten minutes, set everything aside and walk away for a while. Do anything you like so long as you get your mind off the exercise for a short time.

When you come back, read over your notes. Choose whichever images and phrases from your notes you think are the strongest–the most vivid, the least cliché, and so on–and string those images and phrases together to create a short piece of prose or a poem about that object.

Here’s the piece I came up with when we did this exercise for the virtual summer school:


Look at this highly-decorated usurper. See how it boasts its silver engravings—tributes to its maker—like a Squid boasts his tats after a drawn-out deployment. And French—a tramp stamp to boot! That peacock! Pimped out in blue from splashes of orphan to slit-views of the Mariana Trench. Who is this kid to take the place of such worthy predecessors: the thespian quill, the proletarian pencil?

Beware the silver finger trap, more apt for clipping to your skin than your pocket. Resist, if you can, the temptation to fidget with the top (an addiction I fight quite hard). Feel the power of the button shove the needle out from this imposter, an I.V. that drips its blue blood at your command: c-click c-click, l-life d-death. But not too often. One click too many, you’re stuck for life.

Look! What’s this? The finger trap is loose! The needle refuses your command to retreat; the button won’t budge to your fidget. The dandy’s collapse has begun with the multi-gig generation looming. Yet like a car limping through its last few miles, jerry-rigged repairs will pull the blue soldier through for another day.

The pen from the above piece

More than anything, remember to have fun with this. This exercise is only to loosen you up and strengthen your observation skills; it’s not like you’re looking to win the Nobel Prize in Literature over a poem about a pen.

What was your experience with this exercise? Have any thoughts? Did you write anything you’d like to share? Drop a line in the comments, on our Facebook page, or join our Facebook group to talk with other writers.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

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