Hermit Crab Writing

This morning in my Creative Writing class, my professor educated us about the concept of Hermit Crab Writing. She explained it to be a non-fiction piece that uses the form of another kind of text, for example using the format of a recipe and telling a story within it, or using the format of the listed side-effects of medicine to write about the side-effects of being in a relationship. The idea is that a hermit crab makes a home out of something that does not technically belong to it, for example a shell, and so the purpose of this mode of writing is to adhere a piece of writing to the structure of another mode of writing.

I was totally unfamiliar with this type of writing prior to today’s class, but I will admit I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with this format. For our first encounter with this type of writing, our professor asked us to write a love letter to something that is not a lover. I chose to wrote a love letter to a cigarette:

  • I just can’t get enough of you. You’re poisonous and toxic and I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help myself from reaching out to you and taking. Taking the high you give me, the temporary sense of relief. You’re addictive and cruel yet you give me a sense of peace and liberation. I look forward to being with you each and every day, yet I regret it each time we part ways. I want to forget you, to move on, but you keep pulling me back in every time I try. I see you everywhere I go and I can’t escape you. You’re like a dark presence looming over my shoulder, yet I crave your shadow. I crave your taste and your smell and your feel but feel tainted and unclean every time we touch. I hate you, but even more I love you.

We were given approximately ten minutes to complete this exercise, and I was quite happy with how my draft turned out. We proceeded to experiment with other modes of Hermit Crab writing, including writing a recipe for something that is not food, and writing a police report on something done that was not technically a crime. This type of writing is limitless in regards to its possibilities, and I think anyone could benefit from it.

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