Last year, while caught in the throes of writer’s block, I purchased a book called 642 Things to Write About. The title is entirely self-explanatory. The book consists of writing prompts from all corners of life, and was created in 24 hours by a group of 35 writers at The San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. It’s so fun to imagine a group of kooky writers who had an exciting idea and let their creativity run wild late into the night, with the result that the entire content of a book was put together the next day. One of the contributing writers, Po Bronson, writes in the introduction, “I tell this story because it’s a lesson in hidden potential. You never know what might happen. In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could just have something-maybe it’s the start of something, maybe it’s the whole thing. And it doesn’t even have to begin with your own idea. You just have to get creative and plunge in.” (http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/642-things-to-write-about.html *Chronicle Books has also published these types of books for drawing and photography!*)
I write about this book today because I think it’s too easy for writers, and people in general for that matter, to fall into the trap of thinking that once you have done something one way, there is no other way to do it. How crazy! Life and writing will become stagnant only if you allow it to, and if you don’t work to view it from new angles. One of my favorite writing exercises that I learned a few years ago is to write a short blurb, maybe just a paragraph, and then rewrite it in different styles and themes, such as from the point of view of a convict locked up in the Bastille prison in the early 1700s, or as though you are slowly being devoured by an octopus while you write. The possibilities are endless!
I think Bronson’s point of hidden potential is something that everyone could benefit from believing in, especially because it is omnipresent in all walks of life. Whether in math, physics, or the human condition itself, potential is almost always lying beneath the surface (both literally and figuratively), waiting to be released in some form or another. In many cases, I feel that writer’s block, and any kind of slump you fall into in life, is caused by setting a precedent for yourself, and consequently feeling as though there is no way to surpass it. Instead of allowing the lack of upward motion to defeat you, why not attack the problem from a new angle? Spin it around, approach it slantwise, go under it, or slide past it by the skin of your teeth, it doesn’t really matter. The forward motion and the fact that you keep trying will yield results. They just may not be exactly what you envisioned at the start.
This book is not only great for helping writers to beat their mental blocks and release their creativity with out of the box prompts (e.g, ‘What is the sound of silence, and when did you last hear it? What was missing?’ or ‘Write a script to give telemarketers to solicit donations for starving children in Africa.’), but also as an example of what happens when you let go of your reservations and just “go for it”, if you will. To any and all writers, I recommend this book, even if you only use it for warming up your imagination. For any and all non-writers, I recommend this book as a source of inspiration to look at life through new eyes. Perspective isn’t just important in paintings, architecture, and writing, it applies to how we live out our days too.
Throughout the course of my internship I will likely refer back to this book and may even try out some of the prompts for my blog posts. It might be fun to blog about ‘a perfect meal’, or to ‘create and imaginary friend (human or not)’, if anything to see what comes of it!
So, with that being said, why don’t you who read this blog try out one of the prompts? How about… ‘It’s 2100 and the world is running out of fresh water. Describe a typical day.’ You might be surprised where your mind takes you.
Even the cover inspires creativity!