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Prompt: How Did You Get Here?

6 March, 2014

Australia Day, Sydney Harbour. Credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons

How did you get ‘here’? And what does ‘here’ refer to?

Australia Day originally commemorated a date in 1788 when three ships sailed into what is now Sydney Harbour to found the first British colony here. Now the day is  more inclusive, recognising Australian Aboriginals, whose forebears were here centuries before the ships appeared, and recent citizens and residents from many countries.

Radio producer Bellinda Lopez  took her microphone, hopped on the commuter trains loaded with people going to the celebrations in Sydney’s CBD this year, and asked the question,  ‘How did you get here?’ 

Responses fell roughly into three categories. People from an Anglo-Saxon background tended to give the station where they boarded the train.  Some mentioned their forebears who arrived when Australia was still a British colony, 1778-1900.  More recent citizens/residents were apt to explain how and why they immigrated to Australia. Indigenous Australians tended to mention their ancestors’ early presence.

  • Do you have a story about how you ‘got here’, however you wish to interpret what ‘here’ is?
  • Imagine that one day people who wish to live elsewhere can magically and instantly do so.
    Would you take this opportunity? Why or why not? What if there are stipulations? E.g., perhaps once you relocate, that decision cannot be changed, or only certain people or groups are allowed this opportunity.
    If people relocate, how would it affect your hometown, or some other place you choose?

Moving away from the resettling topic, the question offers so many possibilities that it is a wonderful writing prompt. Suggestions to explore.

  • Create a scene that starts with one character asking another the question, ‘How did you get here?’ What happens next?
  • Develop a monologue where the character responds to the question, with the focus on a particular place, time, or situation.
  • Choose something from your life that is relevant to telling  how you got here. Perhaps you once  you found yourself in a particularly good or bad situation.
  • Imagine someone—past, present future—asking you this question. How would you respond, taking into account the person and the context?
  • Combine the  how got here phrase with one or more of these words:  anxietybirthday, clouds, diet, east, frontier, garden, hunting, insurance, jazz, kids, luxury. What can you make of the combo?

More brainstorming

  • Emphasis. HOW did you get here? How did YOU get here? How did you get HERE
  • Location.  Where is ‘here’ and why is it of interest? What makes it special?
  • Scope. Large (planet, country, region, city)? Medium (school, zoo, prison, holiday spot)? Small (Classroom, cell, roof of building, bedroom)?
  • Situation. What’s going on, that causes this question to be asked? Is the situation something to avoid? Confront? Celebrate?
  • Time. Is the ‘here’ in the future, present or past? If the past, is this hours ago, or days, months, years or centuries ?
  • Mood.  What ‘s the dominant mood? Nostalgic? Angry? Scary?  Humorous? Is the overall effect positive or negative? Serious/reflective or light-hearted?
  • Focus.  What’s at the heart of the accounting for getting here? Is there a mystery? A payback? A lesson learned? A relinquishing? A reversal?
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