An ode to Jello: are writing prompts a recipe for creativity?


I was traveling this week for work, so instead of writing something new, I went back to my writing archives and found something that I had written several years ago. It is based on a prompt from the book Old friend from afar by Nathalie Goldberg.

This book provides instructions to help you get started writing. The emphasis is on memories, so the prompts tend to be about things that will jog your memory and help you dig into your past. Some of the prompts are long and open, but others are more specific and fun like the one I’ve included below.

Use writing prompts to fuel creativity

I followed the instructions in this book for some time everyday after dinner before starting my memoirs. I find using prompts to be a good way to jog your memory and can be helpful when you are between writing projects and researching new ideas. and typed them into my computer. Thinking about it, I was surprised at some of the information I remembered while writing and have since forgotten, like the names of teachers that I thought were long forgotten.

But some of the prompts are just fun and let you do a little flexing of your writing muscles. The prompt that resulted in the writing below is a good example. Found on page 17, he simply said, “Tell me everything you know about Jell-O. Go. Ten minutes. Let it rip.

At least it seems simple at first glance. But as I wrote I found so many directions I could go and memories that came with that one simple word. This 10 minute writing exercise could easily turn into a new piece. So, without further ado. Here’s everything I know about Jell-O in 10 minutes.

My Ode to Jell-O

Jello is restless. Jello is wobbly. Jello, like Weebles, wobbles, but doesn’t fall. It is predominantly red, although it is available in all the other colors of the rainbow, I remember it predominantly in red.

But what flavor is red, really? Strawberry? It burns the back of my throat like I’m going to throw up. I hate the false taste of red flavored things that taste like strawberries. They never really do. They only taste like shampoo odor.

Does red Jello taste better like cherry? Maybe it’s with a little Cool Whip on top. I think it’s the kind I had at Grandma’s, served in a floating Pyrex dish with layers of bananas. They turned brown, but were still a nice treat inside the soft but firm stuff.

I loved the way I could force the Jello through my teeth like a broken water pipe, rushing towards my upper lip, as I sometimes did with saliva, the banana forming a dam of impenetrability.

Later it would be shots of Jello made with just a little water and a lot of vodka in tiny little cups that you would pick up and suck with your lips. He bit when you took him, so hard. I shot my last Jello a few years ago in Georgia with my brother and his family. My mother had one too. They were as bad as I remembered them. It made me a little drunk.

I don’t think I’ve ever done Jello. I never really liked it all. I knew this was a low calorie snack, but for my money I would have opaque pudding any day on Jello’s clear, colorful transparency. The pudding fills your mouth. Jello travels in clumps that you can’t quite chew on, and you choke a bit when it comes down. It’s just a substitute for real fruit or at least fruit candy.

This post was already published on Catherine Lanser and is republished here with permission from the author.


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Photo credit: Catherine lanser


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