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Use your “firsts” to propel your writing

Firsts are powerful: your first kiss, first love, first car, first death of a pet or loved one, first child. If you think back on your firsts, they will mostly contain a tremendous amount of emotion.

Talking with Carly yesterday about curse words, she mentioned that she remembered her father rarely, if ever, swearing. I told her that every other word my father spoke was the “f” word. Because I heard it so often growing up, the word had little meaning to me. To my ears, it was the equivalent of someone saying, “damn.”

My mother, on the other hand, never swore. And I remember with crystal-clear clarity the first time I ever heard her swear. My parents owned a small grocery store that my cousin and I turned into our playground—we played post office, bride and groom, and other made-up games. One day, we were playing while Mom sat behind the counter, when suddenly she leapt up from her chair and shouted, “Oh, Shit!”

My cousin and I froze in the middle of our game of who could inhale their Spaghetti-O’s the quickest. Never before had we heard such words escape her lips. What caused her to utter this expletive? A truck had run into the awning over our gas pumps and knocked it to the ground.

I remember this incident so clearly because it was a first. The first time (and last time for several years) that I ever heard my mother swear.

Remembering our “first” moments can be a powerful force in our writing lives—they can trigger ideas for writing a poem or short story or provide insight into characterization or ideas for plots.

Exercise: Set a timer for 10 minutes and start writing from this prompt, “I remember the first time….” See how many sentences you can write in 10 minutes.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a powerful and vividly situated example. Thanks, Carol.

    February 21, 2013
  2. wow that sounds like a great exercise. i will be trying that 🙂 thanks

    February 21, 2013
  3. A perfect example…and you’re right, using “firsts” as a tool in writing can be very powerful. A lot of what makes it into my writing is a combination of firsts and real life experiences of mine and also of people I know, or from stories I’ve heart passed down.

    February 21, 2013

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  1. There is a “first” in everything. | 1122: Rhetoric and Community Discourse

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