Writing Prompt: A Sleeping Octopus


Happy Friday, writers and shark fans! I hope your week is everything you’ve hoped for.

In the meantime, it’s Writing Prompt Friday! The rest of the Shark team and I are so happy to introduce this feature to you.

Every Friday going forward, we will share a writing prompt, as well as the Editor-in-Chief’s (EIC’s) response to the prompt and some of her thoughts on the writing and/or revision process.

She’s always found it to be fun to get inside other writers’ heads, so she’s giving you the opportunity to get inside of hers.

In addition to sharing the weekly writing prompt and poem, Lit Shark and Lit Pup also invite you to share your own interpretations of the prompt. If you would like to submit your work to be featured as a Creative Highlight on our blog, please use the Lit Shark or Lit Pup submission portal that is age-appropriate for you (and please note the name of the writing prompt you used!).

Every Monday, we will review the submissions we have received. We understand that writing and art creation are fluid, so responses to ALL of the writing prompts on our site will be considered on a rolling basis.

We cannot wait to see what inspires you and how you address this prompt—and we hope you will submit your work!

The Writing Prompt

Your Challenge! Find a line from something, anything, that is provocative to you: beautiful, challenging, haunting, exciting—whatever inspires you to write or create art. Use that line as the title of your piece, and let it guide the content of your work. The rest is absolutely up to you.

The EIC’s Resulting Poem

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell
and count myself a king of infinite space,
were it not that I have bad dreams.”



          I can see it up there, high in the corner
          like a spider hosting its web. This is how my dreams

          always play out: so many animals suspended

          from the ceiling or sky. They hover above what I deem
          is inescapable. They hold their bodies up high

          where I can find them upon waking, untouched.

          Compared to my body, which seems bruised
          & battered blue, hands cramped from the guns

          I’ve had to hold, my mind pulling away from me, away

          from the stolen kisses, stolen bodies, I’ve seen. I look up
          & I can see it, suspended in the corner

          with its eight wandering legs, anything but

          spider-like. I hope it will find the way out where
          I can follow, but instead, it waits, eyes closed

          & beak humming. Its body wakes with color, wandering

          from deeper blue into coriander, into maroon,
          into salt. It dreams & becomes the only thing in the room

          with color; it becomes the thing I watch

          while the world falls around me. Its beak
          hums over the dust.


Like we’ve said previously, your writing prompts can be very simple. I want you to be able to draw inspiration from anywhere, no matter how simple, straight-forward, or complex.

This prompt came along accidentally. I saw one of Laughing Squid’s posts, which is entitled, “A Sleeping Octopus Changes Color While Dreaming,” and I thought, “That really should be the title of a poem.” So I used the line as the title of the poem and wrote a poem based on that title.

The Hamlet quote came to me because of the “While Dreaming” clause. I simply used the quote, because it represented the general vibe I was going for in the poem. If I attempt to publish this poem at a later date, I will keep the title (while giving credit to Laughing Squid, of course), but I may or may not keep the Hamlet quote, as it isn’t referenced in the poem (though it does resonate).

As an artist, writer, and creator, do not be afraid or ashamed of drawing inspiration literally from anywhere. I started working on a poem this week that uses a particularly long string coming out of an area rug as a metaphor for coming undone! And I think what is written so far is lovely! I’m not ashamed of that little thread, and I don’t feel “simple” for feeling inspired by a line in an inbox newsletter. We take what we can get, we see the beauty in it—and in turn, we create more beauty.

I can’t wait to see your beautiful creations. Until Then ~

—McKenzie, EIC and Fellow Shark Lover (FSL)

Now It’s Your Turn!

Now it’s your turn to share, share, share! We would love to read the creative pieces you write and art you create.

Whether we publish the piece or not, we will give you a little feedback, but our favorites will be shared between Tuesday and Friday as Creative Features on our blog. Some may also be considered for our next issue of Lit Shark or Lit Pup.

Please submit your creative and artistic responses (including the name of the prompt you used!) to the Lit Shark portal if you are 18/older and to the Lit Pup portal if you are under 18.

We understand writing and art creation is a fluid process, so submissions will be considered on a rolling basis. Every Monday, we will select several pieces to be featured, no matter which writing prompt was used.

We look forward to reading your words soon! Happy Inspiration to all!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You will not be charged extra, but a portion of your purchase will help support Lit Shark’s causes in inclusive and accessible literature and writing resources, as well as our growing movement in conversation education, rescue, and revitalization.

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Written By McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan (she/her/hers) lives and writes in Europe with her family (originally from the Midwest). In addition to being the Editor-in-Chief of Lit Shark Magazine and the Banned Book Review, she is a novelist, poet, and book reviewer. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University and her BA in English/BS in Education from Indiana University South Bend, where she began her work in publishing. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, Young Ravens Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Encore Magazine, among others; and her book reviews and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Green Mountains Review, Memoir Mixtapes, The Life Collective, Her Journal, Motherly, and more. When not writing, she enjoys reading, appreciating nature, and spending time with her husband and three children.




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