If Only: A Writer’s Exercise In Imagination

Each week, Young Writers Project receives several hundred submissions from students in Vermont and New Hampshire in response to writing prompts and selects the best for publication here and in 21 other newspapers and on vpr.net. This week, we publish responses to the prompts, If only… Write about a situation in which you wish you had done things differently; and Invisible: Imagine that you are invisible for a day. What happens? Read more at youngwritersproject.org.

Prompt: If Only

If only, if only,

There are so many of them in the world.

If only, if only,

My thoughts become swirled.

If only I’d done my homework,

If only I’d studied for that test,

If only I’d gone to practice,

If only I’d done my best.

I have so many regrets,

Many more than my successes,

I’ve made so many wrong choices,

I’ve caused so many messes.

If only I was braver,

If only I was strong,

If only I was better,

Maybe then, my life wouldn’t seem so wrong?

Faster! Faster!

I was riding my horse in the training ring at the stables. Everyone, including the judges and my horse trainer, was watching.

I have to admit, I was nervous! I was walking at the time to warm up my horse. Then I started trotting and then jogging.

The judges weren’t looking at the time as they were talking to a little girl named Elle. When the judges finally looked back over, I started to lope my horse.

Suddenly, I felt that I had to impress the judges so I tried to get my horse to go faster. Instead, he was slowing down. I was kicking and whistling when he finally started to lope.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready and when he loped, I found myself flying off my horse towards the ground a few feet backwards and down.

A minute later (which felt like eternity!) I found myself on the ground. An hour later I woke up, pretty lightheaded. As I sat on my bed, I thought, “I won’t be doing that any time soon!”

If only I knew just who you were

What always causes you to stir

What ignites your soul into a rage

What incites the will to shatter your cage

To contest my will, relentlessly so

To revive the darkness buried so low

To control my emotions as you wish

Strangely so, you benevolent lich

If only I knew that which is blacker than coal

If only I knew my very own soul

If only

Prompt: Invisible

Today I turned invisible,

I thought I’d reached my prime.

But then with a great whoosh and bang

I traveled back in time.


I found myself in Egypt

when claws and whiskers ruled.

I didn’t see a single cat

but saw lots of people beg for food.

They groveled on the sun-baked streets

with hopeful chants they grouped together

and from the wealthy came no answer

but the swishing of fine leather.


Then I went to Germany,

those truly frightful years.

Through a sparkling upstairs window

a child penned unspoken fears.

Her curls were golden, her eyes shone blue,

And yet she couldn’t stop from shaking

when she remembered her friends being dragged away

and that her father had done the taking.


I learned the color of death itself

when I witnessed life turned frail.

They said the plague was colored black,

but those corpses sure looked pale.

A rusty wheelbarrow collected the fleshy shells

of a life only half completed.

I could only hope that wherever they are now

they are feeling a bit less cheated.


It took me a few seconds

to realize I’d returned

And then a few more minutes

to reflect on what I’d learned.

I thought about those huge events

and how they had shaped present day.

I hoped those trickles of color and time

would never be kept at bay.

They will continue to flow into the starry ocean

blurring and melting in the best possible way.

And though we attempt to look back,

picking through facts and heavy books,

some of the windows will always be closed

to those wondering, longingly curious looks. 

About the Project

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with audiences through the Newspaper Series (and youngwritersproject.org) and the Schools Project (ywpschools.net).

Next Prompt

Egg. You go outside one day and find a big, purple egg in your backyard. You keep the egg for a few days and then it hatches. What happens? Alternates: General writing; or Photo 9. What’s the story? Due March 1.