Write for You: Before and After and Before

by Nancy Casey

Today you will have a chance to time-travel in your imagination.

First, set up your page. Draw a line at the top where the title will go when you are finished. If you think you might want an illustration on your page, draw a box or frame that saves room for it. You could even put a frame around the whole page if you want.

Begin by writing a sentence, any old sentence, that starts with the word “Before…” It will be a sentence that comes out, more or less, Before something-something, something-something.

If you have trouble getting an idea, you are probably thinking too hard. Just stick the word “Before” in front of some random thing that has happened in your day so far. Finish off the sentence by telling some random thing that happened before that.

Maybe you would write something like: Before I put on my shoes, I got out of bed. Another possibility would be: Before those plants were in the corner, they were outside. Or, Before the sun came up it was night. Or even, Before I ate breakfast, dinosaurs roamed the earth.

For the next sentence, begin with the words, “After that…” Now you have to write down something that happened or might happen after the thing in the first sentence you wrote.

You don’t have to say anything profound, or even particularly sensible, just tell of something that could or did happen after the first thing.

You can skip to a point centuries in the future, or tell what’s going to happen in the next nanosecond, as long as it comes after. Remember that when you write about the future, nobody knows what’s going to happen, so you can put anything.

Your next sentence will begin with the words, Before that… This will be a sentence that tells about something that happened before the thing you just wrote about.

The next sentence will start, After that…

The following sentence will begin, Before that…

Alternate those two beginnings all the way down the page. You will find yourself zig-zagging in time. Maybe you will go very far in the past and future. Maybe you will stay close to a certain moment. You will always be going back and forth.

You never run out of things to write down, because you have the entire history of the universe (and beyond!) to choose from.

Try not to stop writing until you get to the bottom of the page. Don’t read it all over until you are finished. Use whatever ideas pop into your head, instead of trying to think up something sensible or “good.”

If you left a box for an illustration, make sure that gets filled up. You can doodle, draw, add more words, or some combination of those.

When you have finished, give your work a title. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, too. Add further decoration and color to the page as needed. (It’s a good thing to do!) Here is an example of what a person could write.

You can share what you have written by posting it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. She offers (free!) writing help to anyone in recovery. This can be for any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

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