Something to Write About

I have a friend who often tells me how much he admires my ability to just sit down and write. He's amazed that I can just think about something I want to say and write it. OK, don't be too impressed because we're talking about letters, blogs and other short things like that and I do sometimes have to rewrite parts of them because I don't like my wording or made a spelling error. And I have yet to finish a novel even though I have started several. Although I have finished a movie-length screenplay, but don't hold your breath waiting for it to come to the big screen. But generally, I can sit down and write something short without a lot of forethought.

My friend says that for him it's hard just to get the first words out. He doesn't know how to get started. My first recommendation was something I learned in a Creative Writing class many years ago. The teacher's suggestion was to just write anything. Write "I don't know what to write" if you can't think of anything else. And if when you get to the second sentence you still don't know what to write, well, write that. The philosophy was based on the idea that simply putting your pen to paper and writing about anything would often get your brain in gear and get your creative juices flowing.

But I was in a Papyrus store at Bell Square a few weeks ago looking through their very cool and varied collection of boxed card sets. I ended up buying a set that looks like old sewing patterns that has envelopes that look like pattern marked paper. (I know, only you seamstresses out there will relate, but trust me, it is really unique.)

On my way to the checkout stand one of the books on the shelves caught my eye. The title was "712 more things to write about". I picked it up and flipped through the pages wondering if it might have some ideas that would help my friend. And, wow! Did it ever!

I expected it to be like most other books that promise to help you get started writing. Often those will have a few key suggestions like to change the time of day that you write, get up and stretch, or take a walk outside. Or a more esoteric suggestion like "Don't force your subject but instead, let it come to you". Or the tried and true "Write what you know". These are great suggestions, but if you can't even think of the first word to write, they're too vague.

This book was unlike anything I'd ever read. It was literally just as the title said, 712 more things to write about. The book is arranged with a couple of sentences or questions with space underneath for you to respond. The exercises range from very simplistic, such as "Write 12 lines of dialogue spoken at the end of a long day", to the more complex, "Two people meet in an airport bar. Each is waiting to pick up an accompanied minor at a nearby gate. Write the dialogue." Or to the very bizarre, "If a toilet could pray, what would it pray for?" The book has exactly 712 exercises for you to pick and choose from. Who knows, you might even find an idea for a short story or a novel in there somewhere.

And then I realized, if this is 712 more things to write about then it must be a sequel, and if I was going to give it as a gift, I should really give the first one in the series. So I did a quick internet search (how did we ever get anything done without the internet and our smart phones?) and saw that indeed it was and the first book was titled "642 things to write about" and it was available right around the corner in the Anthropologie store. So I hopped over to Anthropologie, resisted the temptation to try on any of their ultra-cute clothes, bought the book and gave it to him the next time we met. Needless to say, he was just as 'over the moon' about it as I was and hopefully is writing away happily.

Now, don't get me wrong, everyone responds differently to different methods of motivation and this book may not help you at all. And it may not be at all what you need. If you're in the middle of a book and don't know where to go with it next, this book will probably not help you. But if you just want to see if you can get your writing gears unclogged, this may just do the trick.

By the way, there are several different books written by this author, which is actually a collection of authors - the San Francisco Writers' Grotto (and no, they're not paying me to write this blog :). So if it sounds interesting, check out all their books and maybe one of them will speak to you enough to give you something to write about. And of course, you are surely doing all this writing with your fountain pens, right?

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