A WRITING PROMPT FROM RILEY HANICK, author of three kinds of motion

Each Friday we post one new writing prompt created by a Sarabande author. Prompts like this one are included in our online Reader's Guides along with discussion questions and suggested reading to accompany each title. So if you can't wait a week for the next prompt, visit our Reader's Guide page to find them all in one place!

This week's prompt comes from Riley Hanick, author of Three Kinds of Motion.

EKPHRASTIC ESSAYING

One way of creating new work is to write in response to and in dialogue with existing works of art. This book required me to have fairly consistent access to one painting for a fairly long stretch of time, but it seems equally possible for a writer to return to a film, building, or piece of music that instigates a response. With any luck, this is something that will shift and develop across multiple encounters. But, after awhile, you will probably feel like you’ve done what you can in terms of both describing and critically judging the work. This is when things will either get more interesting or end. Since, like any relationship, something will have to be invented between you and the work, something that will allow you to re-engage with and reframe it, let your impulses wander. If you’ve really gotten to know the work, you can let your writing live beside it, on its own terms, so that even an essay intent on being associative and digressive will remain somewhat under its spell. This is a mixed blessing. Ekphrastic writing tends to be both infatuated and rivalrous with the art object it has allowed itself to fixate on. Some element of that relationship will probably be frustrating and incomplete, but this is also what allows an essay to live.

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