A Love for Lists
a writing prompt for you + Advent & Grief workshops
Welcome to Writing in Company. Each week I share some words and a writing prompt, meant to be jumping-off points for you to write about what matters. Use the prompts however you like—to journal, to draft thoughts for your own writing project, as meditation or prayer ideas, or for another creative endeavor. You can always look back through the archive for more ideas. Grab your pen and paper, and let your words loose on the page.
If all goes well in my travels, I returned late last night from an overseas trip to see two of my sisters. In deference to my tight travel schedule and my wonky back, I packed a smaller-than-usual amount of clothing in a carry-on bag, which could only weigh 17 pounds. I’m never a huge over-packer, but the limits tested my creativity.
I explored travel capsule tips, including this nifty Sudoku packing idea to create multiple combinations from only nine main clothing items.
I ended up with a few extras, but this was my guide, along with a pared-down list of other items I need on hand:
meds (wonky back)
new airplane sleep mask (that probably won’t help)
Those of you who have written with me online or in person know how I love a list. I’ll often give a prompt to start with a list, then pick one item and write more about it. Choose the item on the list that is shimmering at you, asking to be written about.
In my list above, it’s “passport.” I started there, and this happened.
Hello, traveler. Is your passport up-to-date? Maybe you should go check. Seriously, go check right now. You wouldn’t want to idly open it up 8 days before you are supposed to co-lead a trip to the Holy Land and discover that it expires while you are on the trip, would you? Remember how you called the post office and they laughed at you? Then you called your congressperson’s office who told you “it’s a holiday week and we can’t help you.” Then you asked your dad to help you pay for an emergency trip to D.C. to renew it in person. Remember that swell time, from 27 years ago? You got a good Advent sermon out of it that Sunday, all about keeping watch and being prepared, so you don’t miss your chance to see the Christ Child.
Now I’m thinking about all those in that holy land living in a holy state of terror, whose passports aren’t of use, even if they are up-to-date. What options do they have? How do you renew a passport to peace that too few have the will to carry?
Choosing an item from my list led to a long-ago memory, which—as I followed my thoughts—led to some wondering on the page about something else that matters right now. There is more to write, but it was a simple list that got me started.
I did a quick search of my writing prompts here on Substack and came up with a list where I suggest starting with a list. (It’s long.) Here are some I especially like:
what’s in your refrigerator as a haiku prompt
places you have lived long enough to get mail
things you have done today instead of writing
a list of nouns from your day
things you want to learn how to do
a list of the last three things that happened
things you can let go of
a list of sounds you love
what your senses are noticing
another list of lists (from pandemic week #1)
a writing prompt
Choose a list from the list of lists above. Pick the one that stands out, tugging at you, saying “pick me!” Click through to read the original prompt if you want, or just start with the suggestion as it’s printed.
Make a list (5-7 items are good to start), then pick one from your list and write more about it. Let your writing take you somewhere unexpected if it wants to go there.
more about lists
Enjoy this tweetspeak article about using lists as a generative way to get thoughts down on paper: Memories Poetry Prompt: A List by Callie Feyen. She led me to add Marilyn McEntyre’s book Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts to my Christmas list.
Want to try making a list and then writing about it with me and others? I’m sure to use the idea in the workshop below.
Words of Hope: an Advent Grief Writing Workshop
I've got two Writing in Company workshops about grief and the Christian liturgical season of Advent, registering now. Join me on Zoom to use writing as a way to carry grief during this season of anticipation and waiting. We'll use prompts from poetry, scripture, images, and objects, exploring our memories, and our imaginations as we prepare for Christmas. No writing experience is needed, and all are welcome.
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