The Great Gatsby Writing Exercise

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The Great Gatsby

Since we seem to be in a circular history pattern right now, we might do well to understand what the “Roaring 20s” looked like to get prepared when ours finally begins. Reading The Great Gatsby is an entertaining way to start. Let’s just say, it’s not all glitter.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story The Great Gatsby gained public domain status in 2020. What does that mean? Creatives can now adapt the story itself and beg, steal, or borrow Fitzgerald’s characters without “permission.” However, if this work is public domain, you won’t be stealing…just borrowing. I’m not quite at the comfort level yet to spin a new tale, but The Great Gatsby begs to be heard and examined.

I do believe every writer should have a “classic literature” shelf, and Gatsby doesn’t disappoint. He’s a flawed character with enough regret for all of us to wallow in. Gatsby is the classic “avoidant” personality we “empaths” love to sooth. Most of us walk around with little bits of nostalgia functioning like hang nails. If you don’t tug it, it won’t hurt. Oh, but it’s so cathartic, right? Before I get mired in metaphors, let’s practice the RTW method.

Fast-write Exercise: Read and reflect on this quote from The Great Gatsby for a few moments:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Close your eyes. When you think of your childhood through young adulthood. What scenes or images come to mind? Focus on the one that makes you most nostalgic. Take a snapshot of the scene in your mind. Now, set a 2 minute timer and write without stopping about that snapshot. Describe it in detail, tapping all of your senses. Next, set a 5 minute timer and write the story of the snapshot, as if you are telling the tale to a trusted friend. If possible, step back to that age. Write in that voice.

Options for additional 2 minute timers: Include why you think this memory is important to who you are now. What is the moral of the story?

If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby yet, click here to grab a copy or borrow it from your local library.

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