I was so busy finishing up Mother’s Day gifts last week, I never got around to posting a mother-related nudge for the holiday. Fortunately, there’s never a bad or inappropriate time to write about Mom.
At Facebook, the trend for Mother’s Day was to post a photo of yourself with your mother as your profile picture. I took it a step further and posted a picture showing four generations: my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and me. (It was originally black and white; I tinted a copy digitally a few years ago for a project.) I’ve always felt lucky that I had not only both grandmothers for all of my childhood, I also had a great-grandmother who remembered vivid details of the “old days” in the early part of the century.
Prompt: This bounces off the Facebook profile pic idea. Use a photo of you and your mother. It can be from your infancy or as recent as a brand-new image from this past Mother’s Day. It can show a special occasion or be an everyday photo of you and your mom.
Don’t study the photo too long before you start writing. Instead, note impressions and memories as you gaze at the photo. Don’t make yourself stick to the mood and content of the photo itself. Let the ideas come, and write them all down. Take about 10 minutes to do this.
When you’re done, put the photo and list aside—for an hour, a day, or however long you’d like to let those ideas percolate. Return to the list with your mind refreshed and open. As you read the list, pick whatever idea or ideas resonate the most and write about them. Don’t pick more than two or three; one good idea should be sufficient. Let the writing tell you whether to shape it into a poem, essay, journal entry, etc. You can use this exercise to explore a character in your fiction; imagining the details of the characters in the photo will help sharpen your concept of their physical characteristics, and how the mother and child relate in the photo can help you develop details of their personalities and relationship. And, of course, the primary character having no mother/child photo in the first place can be very telling.
Naturally, if you weren’t raised by your natural mother because of death or separation, don’t feel you have to ignore this prompt. Choose a photo of yourself with someone close to you, especially someone who influenced you as a child. This isn’t about strict rules; it’s about inspiration and writing as exploration.