Harmony – A Writing Prompt

November 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Memoir Space

Garden Harmony © 2010 Bo Mackison

There are times when writing is like singing a favorite song — the pen can barely keep up with the hand as the words fly onto the paper. But at other times, writing is more akin to singing a dirge — thoughts come so slowly, none of the words make sense, and the writing rhythm gets lost before the first sentences are recorded.

When writing becomes work instead of fun, I often search for a word in the dictionary to get me started – a habit I learned from an English teacher. As I was compiling a list of ideas for this month’s Memoir Space, each idea took off, spun a bit, but then sputtered to the ground. I finally decided I needed a prompting word to get me started, and what better word for this month than the theme word harmony.

Here are a several prompts to prime your writing pump, and start your memories flowing. One of these might just be the inspiration you need to write a few pages for your Memoir Project.

1. Albert Einstein is famous for many things, including being the author of many wise words. One of his more famous quotes is:

“There are three rules of work. Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Can you recall a time in your life when you were able to find harmony in discord?

2. One often associates the word harmony with music. Music is a wonderful prompter of memories. Think of a popular song from your youth or from the present times. Can you associate any memories with that song?

3. Have you ever sung in a choir? There’s a lot of harmony going on in a choir — and in more ways than just the melody. Experiences where people join together to do what they love often bring about close, lasting relationships. And shared moments, some happy, some poignant, some nerve-wracking, but usually group experiences are filled with life lessons. Do you have a choir story — and a life lesson — worth sharing?

4. When people gather together, even in informal groups, there is often a lot of singing going on. It might not be quite the harmonious singing from an organized musical group, but the lessons learned and the stories shared are no less important. Traditional songs and family favorites are passed on to young children. Older kids and families sing together spontaneously. Teenagers form bands in order to express themselves. On and on through life, we share experiences with other people with song.

So set your timer for ten minutes and compile a list — don’t give it much thought, use a speedy pen, and keep writing — of times when music played a role in your life, any kind of role. I’ll share the beginnings of my list as an example:

  • Singing in the backyard while I was swinging. I was maybe 8 or 10. Tried to keep the rhythm of my singing even with my swinging. Went to a Catholic grade school – we were practicing hymns for a special concert and for weeks I sang “Ave Maria” while swinging. Until I saw the neighbor lady watching me through her curtained window, shaking her head in disbelief at my irreverence. I felt guilty for weeks — until I went to confession and the priest told me “God loves all kinds of singing.”
  • My sister, born when I was nine years old. My grandmother sang lovely German lullabies to her, ones I also wanted to sing, but I couldn’t manage the German words. I pretended instead… and insisted to my friends that I could sing in German. Then the mother of one of my friends spoke to me in fluent German. Uh oh!
  • Vacation trips with my three kids in the car for weeks at a time. As preteens and young teens, they would get out of sorts when we were heading to a far destination. We made up a game involving singing musicals — any musical counted from Broadway to Disney. We would all take turns, parents had to play too or it wasn’t as much fun, singing a few lines of a song from a musical. Almost anything counted. A few words and humming. La la la’a. As long as it was recognizable. We would go ’round and ’round for hours, yes hours, each taking a turn singing. Lots of laughing, too. Played this game for years. Still play it once in a great while. One of kids’ favorite vacation memories.

Go ahead. Set your timer and give it a try.

If the word harmony doesn’t provide you with the proper inspiration, then do as Sister Gabriella did when I was a sophomore in high school English class. Pull out a dictionary or other handy book. Open a page. Point to a word. And then start writing using the chosen word as a prompt. Ten minutes. No stopping.

You never know when mining for words will provide that perfect start-up for an addition to your Memoir Project.

Bo Mackison is a writer and photographer, and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She posts a photograph on her blog nearly every day, usually an abstract botanical or a landscape. She also loves to travel and take her Seeded Earth photograph gallery on the road, participating in art shows and festivals throughout the US Midwest.


2 Responses to “Harmony – A Writing Prompt”
  1. Chania Girl says:

    This is a really great tip for writing, Bo. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I know the feeling of writing the dirge that you described, and it would be nice to know I could dig myself out of that hole I’d dug. :)

  2. Bo Mackison says:

    Thanks, Chania. I’m happy it was of use.