This prompt is a variation on my “Five Word Free Write,” and uses four words that have a lot of emotional weight. It’s a great exercise to get writers into deep emotional writing.
Here’s how it works: I read four words out loud, one at a time, and allow 90 seconds to free write any associations, ideas, images, words or sentences that come to mind when you hear each word. After 90 seconds, I read the next word, until we’ve free written on all four. Then I say, “Lift your pen from the page for a moment, and when you put it back down, write anything that comes to mind.” Then we write for 20 minutes.
Here are the four words:
Joy Contempt Surprise Fear
(thanks to the women of BREW for this prompt!)
Here’s what I wrote in response:
Here’s the empty space between us, wide as ever, and deep. A yawning chasm, a dead phone line, an empty house.
How did you used to look at me? I’m remembering now: like a lover, like a child, like a friend. You looked into me. Didn’t you? Didn’t you see inside me?
I can’t trust anything now, or anyone. The gas station attendant who rolls his eyes and stomps out to help me with the broken pump: he thinks I’m just another helpless gringo waiting to be served. The guy in the bar leaning against the wall wants to rob me. My landlord won’t return my calls; he wants to find a way to evict me. Nowhere is safe. Everything is about to implode.
Early mornings I’m on the yoga mat, facing the mirror. I’m on portion control, putting small amounts of good food into my body: I’m clear that my life is better without you in so many ways. But it’s the trust I can’t rebuild, the trust that I can make good decisions, that my intuition is strong. Because I still believe in fate; somewhere inside of me a tiny sliver of hope remains, and that’s what’s killing me. The belief that love like I felt for you is trustworthy, alive, valid–because how can it be in all this emptiness? How can that love equal this silence?
Everything feels like a lie, and everyone is some kind of double agent, some sort of spy. They want something from me, and once they get it, they want me to disappear. I thought you were different, but the truth is, I’m living in some reoccurring dream, only I thought I was awake. I thought I could see clearly. I was blind and deaf and stupid. Duped. The joke’s on me, because when I poured over all those pages today—five years of my life recorded intermittently between two black covers—I kept reading the same damaged narrative, the same sad piece, and the same cast of broken characters.
The melodramatic, unsophisticated, fucked up teenager; he writes well, but you can’t write your way out of hopelessness. You just have to sit in it for a while. It’s the same naive, green, dumb little boy in those pages, over and over. It’s a big dangerous world out there, and you were supposed to protect me from it. But you didn’t.