Writing Prompt: Simulated Mental State


First, write down a statement declaring your mental state: joyful, angry, hopeful, shocked, ecstatic, catatonic despair, etc. or a combination of different mental/emotional states of being.

Now, write a first-person text that simulates a mental state other than the one you declared. You can invent a character in this state and write a monologue, diary entry, narrative poem, or other genre or hybrid.

Write for twelve minutes, actively focusing on gravitating your mind into the mental state you are depicting.

NOTE: Since this assignment can get fairly intense, we will take a moment to decompress, recalibrate, and refocus once the writing is complete.

When we write, we often receive the direction our mind naturally inclines toward, which is a passive mental state. Freewriting or Automatic Writing harnesses this; letting the mind lead us where it will and separating mind from consciousness.

Affecting a mental state other than the one we declare in this exercise can be useful for inventing new writing or pushing characters or texts in new directions even as we create them. It forces us to be active while still being inventive.

One of the most challenging things about being a writer is re-entering the state of being that gave rise to the initial impulse to write. It is extremely difficult for me to re-trigger the urge that compels me to write a certain text, which is part of the reason I tend to write shorter texts. I have a hard time matching additional writing with the original drafting that I do, although it isn’t impossible to practice and improve. (Editing works around the impulse of the original urge, but I don’t necessarily have to “get there” as long as I understand the piece I’m editing.)

For Later
This prompt can be a way to practice getting into a certain place to work on a longer text, even if your current mental or emotional state is quite different from where it needs to be.

It is also a good idea to track your reactions to other texts, works, places, or activities. Sometimes reading a poem, listening to a certain song, going to a specific place, or doing an activity like exercising or meditating can help me to break into another mental or emotional state or break down internal barriers I’ve set up to avoid feeling a certain way.