A Writing Challenge: Atavistic

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Here’s a word I have been thinking a lot about lately: atavistic. Many people consider the word to have a negative connotation. Atavism means to revert to an ancestral type. People often use this in the sense of going backwards or reverting to an out-dated way of being or thinking. The word can be used to imply that something or someone is flawed or primitive by today’s standards.

However, I like to think of the word in a different sense. I like to think that the reappearance of a characteristic from an ancestor could be strength for some of us. For instance, I have discovered letters written by my grandmother and her sisters that contain beautiful imagery and are written in a unique writing style. A few people have commented that I get my writing talents from some of my ancestors on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Other people wonder where their musical talents come from only to discover that their great-grandfather was noted in his area for his musical ability. Some gifts can skip generations and reappear in the family line years later.

Your writing challenge for the week: think of an atavistic influence in your life. Do you have a talent that you wonder where it first appeared in your family line? Are you the only chef, musician, painter or writer in your generation? Through poetry or in a descriptive paragraph, write about your talents and passions. If you can trace them through your family heritage, do so this week. If you can’t, imagine how an ancestor may have used your talents and passions based on what you do know about your family history. If you know nothing about your biological family roots, create a poem or short story based on someone living years earlier with your talents.

See where this word of the week leads you…

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