This exercise asks you to write a portrait, following specific directions, about yourself. The constraints of the directions may help you to discover new aspects of yourself since you are following sentence-level prompts even as you develop your content. Following these prompts keeps you from directing your observations in familiar, perhaps predictable, ways.


1. Picture yourself in your mind.

2. For a title, choose an emotion or a color that represents yourself. You will not mention the your name in the

3. For a first line starter, choose one of the following:
• You stand there...
• No one is here...
• In this (memory, photograph, dream, or whatever) you are...
• I think sometimes...
• The face is...
• We had been...
Complete this sentence.

4. After your first sentence, build a portrait of this individual, writing the sentences according to the following

Sentence 2: Write a sentence with a color in it.

Sentence 3: Write a sentence with a part of the body in it.

Sentence 4: Write a sentence with a simile (a comparison using like or as).

Sentence 5: Write a sentence of over twenty-five words.

Sentence 6: Write a sentence under eight words.

Sentence 7: Write a sentence with a piece of clothing in it.

Sentence 8: Write a sentence with a wish in it.

Sentence 9: Write a sentence with an animal in it.

Sentence 10: Write a sentence in which 3 or more words alliterate; that is they begin with the same initial

consonant: "She has been left lately with less and less time to think..."

Sentence 11: Write a sentence with two commas in it.

Sentence 12: Write a sentence with a smell or a color in it.

Sentence 13: Write a sentence with a simile (a comparison using like or as).

Sentence 14: Write a sentence with a thought that could carry an exclamation point (but don't use the exclamation point).

Sentence 15: Write a sentence with a thought to end this portrait that uses the word or words you chose for a title.

-from Working Words: The Process of Creative Writing by W. Bishop



We had been father and son a long time ago. Then came the grey, sunny day that you left our home and moved in with another family. My heart was ripped from my chest that day, and part of it has never fully returned to me. I was as helpless as a goldfish on a frying pan and in as much invisible pain. I sat there as my mother told us that you were leaving, told us it had nothing to do with us, told us that it was a problem that Mommy and Daddy had between themselves and nothing at all to do with our childish quarrelling and bickering. But part of me didn't believe her. I wanted to cling to her and have her tell me it wasn't so, but I couldn't; I sat there, shivering in my school uniform, suddenly cold despite the heat of the afternoon, Florida sun coming in through the glass doors to the patio. I closed my eyes and wished for it to not be true--wished for this to be another adolescent nightmare that I would wake up from any moment--but knew it was not. Was this why we gave away our ailing dog recently, in preparation for a breakup that would rip apart all our lives? Hot tears trailed down my face to fall unheeded to my lap. I am not sure, to this very day, all the changes that happened to me then. You came home later, smelling of sweat and asking permission to shower before you left, left us all and the grey feeling of unreality continued on. I was as lost as a penguin in the Amazon. This wasn't fair. And in the grey blackness of the night, you left--our relationship forever changed.

©1999 Art Belliveau