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Try This: The Proust Questionnaire

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

As I was scrolling through my iPhone news feed last week I stumbled across this article: "Sally Field Answers Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire." I was intrigued. I hadn't heard of this questionnaire before, and I wanted to learn more. Because I so often think in terms of writing prompts (I can't seem to turn it off), I thought it would be a great find for my workshops. It also tweaked my literary curiosity.

Yesterday my afternoon AWA women's writing group worked with the first 10 questions, and it was fun! (At least I thought so.) Most people wrote about those they admired (or the difficulty in choosing one person) and another wrote about a beloved cat. As for myself, I wrote about my state of mind, which I described as Zen Jello. Those aren't two words I usually put together, but they seemed just right in that moment. Proust had his madeleine and I had . . . well.

Here's the questionnaire, which can be found on Vanity Fair's website. Happy writing!

The Proust Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

2. What is your greatest fear?

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

5. Which living person do you most admire?

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

7. What is your current state of mind?

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

9. On what occasion do you lie?

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

11. Which living person do you most despise?

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

16. When and where were you happiest?

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

21. Where would you most like to live?

22. What is your most treasured possession?

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

24. What is your favorite occupation?

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

26. What do you most value in your friends?

27. Who are your favorite writers?

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

31. What are your favorite names?

32. What is it that you most dislike?

33. What is your greatest regret?

34. How would you like to die?

35. What is your motto?

Proust image found here.

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