Fall Writing Exercise Series #21: Ekphrastic Empty Streets

The Notebooking Daily Fall Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

Ekphrastic Empty Streets

For today, we're going to write a poem or prose piece inspired by another piece of art or an ekphrastic piece. The piece of art in question is the following image of an eerie empty Chicago freeway by artist Michael Salisbury.

If nothing right off strikes you try the following exercises along with the image.

  1.  Whenever you see an empty city in the movies it indicates some traumatic or cataclysmic event. Make a list of five possibilities that are plausible (if unlikely) and five extremely unplausible reasons for the empty streets.
  2. Write at least five vignette paragraphs that each describe different types of businesses (bakery, Kinko's, Police station etc) and what normally occurs in them if you were to be looking at them on a normal day. Be specific and if what you're describing isn't inherently interesting, be sure to use a couple good words.
  3. Try to imagine the exact opposite locale. Whether you think of it as a super crowded place or somewhere very rural or both. Write two vignettes describing this imagined place first from a positive perspective, as though you (very much like the place) and then from a negative perspective (as though you hate the place).
  4. Pick your two or three favorite paragraphs from #2 and your favorite vignette from #3 and find a way to combine the four. 


If you'd like background writing music try La vie Parisienne, French Chansons From the 1930s & 40s.