When people ask what I want to be ‘when I grow up’, I tend to stare vacantly at them in the hope that they will lose interest and move on before they have the chance to realise how completely clueless I am about my future. I have ambitions like anyone else; mine are just pretty vague.
If I’m drunk enough I’ll tell anybody who will listen, (loudly and repeatedly), that my big plan is to write a novel, get rich and spend the rest of my days writing, but mainly reading and generally being a self-funded lady of leisure. I suspect it is a dream shared by almost every other person doing an English degree in the country.
However, the flaw in my particular plan comes with my general lack of conviction in my ideas. An indecisive person by nature, I find it hard to believe that my writing will be of interest to anyone other than myself. So while I write a lot of beginnings for stories, poems, articles, most of them are tossed aside when I lose the conviction of my idea. And that’s not to mention the dozens of half page documents on my computer, full of helpful phrases like ‘not her really’ and ‘broken??’ which obviously make complete sense at 3 o’clock in the morning, but could be a shopping list for all the sense they make to me now.
I’ve decided to make a change, and this is where the lovely people at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto come in. They have published a book called 642 Things To Write About. Designed, I’m sure, for people like myself, who need to stop over-thinking and start writing.
The prompts vary hugely, from, ‘A short story set in Detroit in 1956, in which a car floor mat plays a crucial role’ to ‘Write a knock knock joke. Now use it in a story.’ It may not be the most organic way to write, and I’m sure there’ll be people out there who sneer, but I think, at least it’s a start, and do you know what? It’s actually really fun. I’m enjoying writing again, and if I can write 642 small creative pieces, then maybe I’ll have a chance at something more significant, something that’ll give me my very own publishable work.
For someone who suffers pretty chronically from writer’s block, this book has at least got me back to putting words on paper. I’m sure not all of the work is particularly imaginative; the piece in which I compare writers block to forgetting a dream is spectacularly pretentious (maybe I’ll treat CUB to a read of it sometime).
Despite that I would encourage any aspiring writers to give this book a chance. Yes, it can feel forced, yes, it has echoes of primary style literacy – and yes, there are some people lucky enough to just form endless brilliant ideas. But if that’s not you, why not get in the habit of achieving small creative goals? Hey, maybe we can even compare overly descriptive short stories. And you never know one of the prompts might just inspire your magnum opus.
‘642 Things To Write About’ is published by chronicle books and costs £11.99.
Photo credits to Angie Garrett.