X-Page Exercises: Reading and/or Writing

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Think back over the course of your life so far and make a list of ten memories that you associate with reading and/or writing. Just take about 3 minutes and make a numbered list of ten memories that come to mind.

Then, read over your list and pick the one memory that seems the most vivid to you. Circle it. Then on a new page, write that memory at the top of the page as if it were the title of a story and draw a big X across the page.

Picture yourself in the memory that you are exploring and then write the answers to the following questions anywhere on the page. Pretend we are having a conversation, so you can see the image but I can’t so I’m going to be asking you these questions to help me “see” the image too. Keep writing until the next question is asked — no detail is too small or unimportant.

  1. Where are you?
  2. What time of day or night does it seem to be?
  3. What season does it seem to be?
  4. Where is the light coming from?
  5. What kind of light is it?
  6. What’s the temperature like?
  7. What does the air smell like?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. Is there anyone else in that place with you?
  10. What are they doing?
  11. Why are you there?
  12. What are some of the sounds you can hear?
  13. What are some of the things you can see?
  14. What’s directly in front of you?
  15. If you turn your head to your right, what’s there?
  16. If you turn your head to the left, what do you see?
  17. What is behind you?
  18. What’s below you and around your feet?
  19. What’s above your head?
  20. What emotions are you feeling in this space?

Once you have jotted answers to those 20 questions on your x-page turn to a new page and freewrite for 5 or 10 minutes about that memory. There are no wrong or right things to write about or ways to write about the memory. Just write without stopping whatever thoughts are coming to your head about that memory.

We did this exercise in class with one memory. As preparation for writing your literacy narrative essays for next week, choose the next two most vivid memories from your list and make an X-page and freewrite for each.

(adapted from Lynda Barry, Syllabus)