Prompts for Quarantine

In response to the quarantine, The Columbia Review editorial board will share every other day a series of prompts, which we hope will inspire our readers.


Think about space.

Think about the space that separates you from the computer, the space that separates you from the outside world.

How does the space feel that keeps you six feet apart from friends and strangers?

Write about the spaces you occupy and cease to occupy.

Write about writing-as-space.


Write a play, prose piece, or poem set in a single room.

Write about the character of the room, the objects and the people that populate it.

Pay attention to how action gives the room shape, and how the room shapes action.


Listen to the sound of your computer starting up.

Pay attention to the cadences and rhythms of the machine. Write about what is happening inside.

Write about the technical processes and events that turn your machine on.


We have all known many dogs.

Make a list of 10 of the dogs you have known at different points throughout your life.

Include your childhood pet, your friend’s pet, or pick a dog that you once saw outside of a store.

Pick one dog from the list and write about the person you were at the time when the dog was in your life.

You can include the dog in your final piece, or leave them out entirely.


Write an observation of the landscape of your hometown. Note how it is growing, and how it is decaying.


Write a found poem using textual sources (books, magazines, diaries, old essays or homework assignments, etc.) from your childhood bedroom.


Write a complete scene,

with a beginning, middle, and end,

comprised entirely of one-syllable words.


Become acquainted with your body;

explore your favorite things about your body,

and the things that make you uncomfortable.

Write about the relationship between your self and your body –

are they one? Separate?