Don’t Throw Away 100s of Stimulating Writing Prompts

Stress can lead to hasty decisions. Don’t make the decision I made.

Photo credit kakisky Morguefile

January 2017 was probably the worst month of my life.

On the 10th, I learned that my mom had fallen in the shower. Four days later, the doctors told her the reason she’d fallen was that she’d unknowingly been battling pneumonia, probably since before Christmas. My mom started telling me where to find her insurance policy and her prepaid funeral papers. I thought she was overreacting. People get pneumonia all the time.

She wasn’t overreacting.

Friday night the 20th I accidentally turned my phone’s ringer off. I woke up to find several calls from the hospital and one from my uncle. Mama had suffered a massive heart attack overnight and was on life support with no chance of recovery. As her power of attorney, they called to ask my wishes.

“If you kept her on life support until I could get over there, would she know I’m in the room?” I asked the doctor.

“No, she wouldn’t,” came the reply.

“Then go ahead and take her off,” I replied. A little while later, I got the call that she had passed away peacefully, in no pain.

I was about to bury my mother. My parents divorced when I was 5, and I am an only child. I was going to have to do this all by myself.

I made an appointment with the funeral director for Mama’s arrangements. Thank goodness she had pre-planned everything. All I had to do was sign a stack of papers. Next, I went over to her church and talked to the priest about her service. She had volunteered at the church, so the ladies at the desk were able to share personal stories with me.

Then I had to figure out how I was going to clean out her apartment. The only things I wanted were her important papers, her iPad (which I gave her for Christmas a year earlier), her photo albums, and her jewelry box. I just didn’t have the time or energy to go through all her other possessions by myself. I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible and get back to my friends who are like family to me.

After about 14 calls, striking out every time, the local Union Mission said they’d be willing to haul away the stuff in her apartment. I made an appointment for that Tuesday and promised I’d have whatever I wanted to keep out of the apartment by then.

I loaded all the belongings I wanted to take home into my car and brought them back to my hotel room. Then I thought, “Is there anything else I need to get out of there? Anything that’s too personal for the Union Mission people to see?” I made a trip back over to Mama’s apartment.

There I found a couple of bags full of items I had created when I was little. There were the “Morning News” writing assignments I did in second grade. There was the family newspaper I created when I was 7. There were catalogs from an imaginary department store I made around the same time. There were comic books I drew as a teenager.

I wasn’t surprised she had kept them all these years. I was her whole life.

But, they had no sentimental value to me. They reminded me of when I was in school. I hated school. They were meaningless to me and I didn’t care to look at them. I saw them as things that would take up space in my apartment without having any value.

So I took the bags downstairs and heaved them into the dumpster.

In January 2017, I had no idea I’d be a professional writer a few short years later. I had a personal blog, but that wrote itself; it’s whatever was going on in the neighborhood. I had no idea I’d be writing from the heart, 5 times a week, and that I’d need every source of inspiration I could get my hands on.

Childhood is such a tremendous source of ideas. I’ve written about how my family newspaper and my imaginary store catalog could have been an early indication of a future in marketing. I recently created a writing idea book exercise that helps you embrace your inner child.

To be able to re-read the things I created when I was 5, or 7, or 8 — to know what was on my mind in those days, before peer pressure and expectations of success and “shoulds” weighed heavily on me… that would be amazing. I’d be able to get a better sense of who I really am.

But I can’t. I threw it all away.


If your parents are still living, talk to them. If they saved items you created in your childhood, tell them you’d like to see them.

If they’ll let you have them, to bring home with you and mine for ideas over time, you will likely find many writing prompts in those childhood creations.

If your parents are sentimentally attached and want to hold on to those memories, ask if you can at least borrow them for a month or so. Promise to bring or mail them back.

If they won’t even let you borrow them, make arrangements to take pictures of as much of it as you can.

And for heaven’s sake, when your parents do pass away, don’t relegate those mementos to the dumpster.

Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Here’s a related story:

I write about writing, ideas, creativity, intuition, spirituality, life lessons. Ex-college teacher Twitter: @paulryburn

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store