we’re in the middle of october and it’s fall. it’s miserable and dark and the nights are closing in on us. it’s time to huddle under a blanket and turn up the heat, grab a cup of hot tea and snuggle with your favorite book.
or you could just say fuck the depression and create something.
yes. let’s do that. and let’s do it together because there’s no reason we shouldn’t. we can encourage each other. so here’s the deal. write a thousand words every day. at least that. i mean, if you want to write ten-thousand, go for it. respond to the prompt and post it somewhere — anywhere. start a free blog on wordpress if you like. or something more serious. or use your existing blog. but, whatever it is, make it public. because there’s no point in writing if you’re not going to have an audience. that’s what we write for. and you’re never going to get better if you don’t have an audience in mind, anyway.
it doesn’t matter if you start today or tomorrow or next week. just start when you’re ready. but don’t stop. thirty-two days of writing will train your mind to look at itself and say “you’re not up for writing — and i don’t give a flying assfuck so we’re doing it anyway”. and once you have a month of pushing yourself to achieve you won’t find it so weird anymore. i promise. i force myself to write every day. every. damned. day. whether it’s good or not. if it’s good, i share it. if it’s not, i scrap it. but i write. you know what they say about practice, right?
it makes you perfect. or it makes you crazy. usually both. aim for perfect. crazy’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
why thirty-two? because it’s more than a month. whatever month. and it’s a great number. it’s two multiplied by itself five times. it’s also a great number in binary. 100000. so that’s pretty awesome. whatever, though. if you do thirty-two days, you’ll have created the habit and that’s what matters.
one other thing. write these stream-of-consciousness. you don’t need to plan or prepare. write your thoughts. as they come. step outside your comfort zone and just go back and check for grammar and spelling later. this isn’t a polished piece. it’s just an exercise. so stretch your fingers and your mind and join me, ok?
here are your prompts. these are not questions. they are meant to get you started. you don’t have to feel restricted by them.
- after thirty days of life, i have become used to the world. they think of me as an infant but i have learned so much. how can i share that before it’s too late?
- sometimes i am ashamed of the music i listened to as a teen but it’s so fundamental to my soul and when one of those songs comes on i’m immediately taken back to a time and place.
- i feel like i should know so much more about my great-grandparents but, despite being separated from their lives by only a century, their daily experiences are so foreign to me.
- i am a contemporary person, unwilling to sacrifice my freedom and control of my decisions except when i let society dictate my actions and expectations tell me what i should want. oh. wait a second. i’m not free at all.
- i am overwhelmed by the memory this single bite has filled me with as taste stimulates me to be back in that place.
- what would i kill for? principle? to save my mother? perhaps keep a child safe?
- we have all experienced isolation but i am seriously considering borrowing a cabin on a lake where i can get monthly grocery deliveries but live there totally alone for the next year. i can’t tell if it will be amazing or torture but i expect it will be one or the other.
- why is this my favorite color? there has to be a story. even if it’s just one i made up to justify it.
- before written language, everything was open to being forgotten. even things we are desperate to remember — how can i make sure i don’t lose my past? or that my children don’t gradually forget i ever existed?
- what is the one thing i wish i could predict, given the opportunity to know the future but only in a single detail?
- i am walking to work and suddenly a girl runs past wearing a red hood carrying a basket. she turns to look at me and asks if i know where her grandmother’s house is. i stare confusedly at her but realize i am suddenly in a forest and there is a house in the distance. i point and she runs off in that direction.
- i have suddenly lost my vision but nobody around me knows. is it temporary? permanent? should i tell them? what will happen when i’m not just incapable of seeing but known by others to be?
- i hear an explosion in the distance followed by gunshots. i can’t see anything but i feel paralyzed. do i run to help or escape?
- every child has a comfort-object. a blanket or stuffed-toy, perhaps. but every adult has one, too. how did mine become so important? if i could choose again, what would it be? could i honestly live without one?
- a dog runs up to me on the road and starts tugging at my sleeve. it obviously wants me to follow it.
- i no longer need to sleep. i am healthy and rested every day with twenty-four hours of productivity without exhaustion or breaks. i can’t tell if this is good or just the source of even more boredom.
- i have become the animal i most identify with. it may be temporary or forever. what matters in my life? what’s my experience today? how do i feel?
- i look up at the water pouring from the shower-head and my head starts spinning. i know i’m going to faint here in the shower.
- i will never have children. it’s impossible.
- i can’t feel my feet. i know they’re there. i can see them. they still move perfectly fine. but i’m losing the ability to feel my whole body, piece by piece.
- my country has suddenly been attacked and i am being drafted. i have one chance to escape before they come for me and i become a soldier in a war i desperately want to avoid but if i run i will never be able to come back — a deserter both to the government and my friends and neighbors.
- i suddenly smell and tastes hot chocolate and realize i’m drinking it and it shocks me out of my dreams back to the present i was trying to ignore.
- i see someone in the distance beating a child with a stick. i run in their direction…
- i wake up in the morning, face covered in tears, body aching from physical exertion but i remember nothing of the past, not even my name or where i am.
- the radio has just announced the significant possibility of an asteroid collision large enough to trigger a new mass-extinction event. it will be a month from now. it’s unlikely i will be able to escape the planet and the plans to divert it sound unfeasible. i will, along with everyone else i know and love, die in thirty days.
- i am walking at sunset in the forest and i hear the sound of a wolf howling in the distance.
- my sister has just called me. the conversation began with “are you sitting down? i just got home from the hospital…” and the shock is beginning to fade as i face the news.
- i hold a single white rose in my hand.
- a photograph of me with no clothes on flashes on the screen, though you can’t see my face in the picture. i know it’s me. this isn’t a text, though. it’s a news article.
- i look outside and it is dark. not just night but completely dark. there is no electricity. but there’s no storm, no explosion, no obvious reason. i try my phone and it doesn’t respond. power has simply disappeared from my world.
- i’m not sure if this is cheating.
- i see a bright light and realize i am about to discover the answer to the most fundamental question of life — what happens when it ends?
of course, you may want something far more typical. if on any day you don’t feel up to responding to the prompt, here are some alternative questions…
- what name would you choose for yourself if you could simply erase yours?
- what’s your second-worst mistake?
- who could you never stop loving?
- were you ever innocent?
- what’s the movie that spoke to you most deeply?
- what would having far more money let you change in your life?
- is there anything in life like learning to ride a bike — once you learn it, you remember it forever — even literally riding a bike?
- what did your grandparents dream of for your future?
- could you survive on the streets?
- are you kind?
- can you ever completely forget the past?
- what would you do if you couldn’t remember how to read or write?
- is there an animal whose life you’d willingly adopt?
- what’s the best smell in the world?
- is childhood valuable?
- what object would you risk your life to save from a fire?
- what’s the best book you’ve ever read?
- is there a fear that controls your life? limits you every day?
- have you ever walked through the woods barefoot?
- “life is nothing more than acting for new audiences all the time” — what do you think?
- do you care who leads the country?
- is prejudice ever justified?
- what would be your ideal job?
- are you ticklish?
- is it important to be comfortable? feel pleasure? peace? harmony? respect?
- do you ever regret following the rules?
- what is the first memory you have of the ocean?
- are you afraid to die?
- is altruism possible? desirable?
- who do you want to hold you when you’re sad?
- do you ever feel like an impostor?
- what if you couldn’t remember anything about your life — even your own name — and you were lost? what would you do? could you trust anyone?
there you have it. now it’s up to you. start writing.
of course, i would love to see the results of this writing challenge. creativity is very important to me and i’m obsessed with spending my life encouraging others to create more — with words, wood, whatever. if you want me to read your writing, feel free to email me a link to where you post it and i’ll take a look.
good luck. may the force be with you. blessed be.