Monday, September 17, 2012


No, not the physical kind.  The mental kind.  It's too bloody hot for the physical, though I still somehow manage to walk the boys for a couple miles each morning, and have to go up and down my two flights of stairs at least a dozen times a day.  Whenever it cools down--apparently that will be when Hell freezes and the Gates finally close--I will get back to my yoga.

But until then.

Because I'm doing NaNo again this year, and didn't have a single worthwhile idea in my head for a plot--due to the endless scorching heat this Summer, I'm totally convinced--I purchased a book that I'd heard about a few months ago.

It was compiled by the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, a place where thirty-five writers congregate.  I'm not entirely sure what they do in their grotto--other than write of course--but one day an editor called one of them and said how about a book called 642 Things to Write About?

The guy emails his thirty-four fellow Grottonians, thinking they might be able to come up with a few suggestions, but he thought 642 was an off-the-wall impossibility, and would probably take at least a month to get things moving.

Within an hour, 100 ideas had come in.  There were 500 at the end of the day, the numbers kept coming in overnight, and by lunch the next day, the ideas, the book, the finished manuscript was delivered to the editor.

I had to have a copy of this book, if for no other reason than to see what the 642 ideas were.

Secondary to that, I wanted to stretch myself, jog my brain, climb new heights, reach for--okay, okay, I'll stop with the exercise metaphors.

What I truly wanted was inspiration.  I needed something to set my mind on fire.  There is nothing in all the world as compelling as a plot that sinks its teeth into you and won't let go.

The book is very cool.  It's like a school notebook, with wide-lined pages.  Some pages have just one prompt, some have two, and others have little mini-quarters where there's something to write about in four quadrants.  Here, easier to show what I mean:

I don't know if the words will become clear if you click on the photo, so I'll just tell you what these two pages say...

Left page, top left:  A time you made someone cry
Left, top right:  A time someone made you cry
Bottom left:  I have never felt this way before or since...
Bottom right: The first summer you fell in love  (Been there, done that...)

Right page:  A kid throws a rock over a cliff, and it hits a man in the head.  The kid hears screams and goes down to find the man's hiking partner, who reveals that the man is dead. Write the conversation between the two.  (I've already decided the partner actually finished the guy off, not the kid...)

I don't write every day, and probably still have 600 prompts to go, but it's been a really good experience.  And I'm pretty sure the plot I have percolating in my mind--with copious notes on paper--came into my head because of this book.

There's a page in the front, written by Po Bronson, the guy who sent the email to his fellow writers and got this whole book ball rolling in the first place.  One paragraph toward the end pretty much sums up the genesis of this book, and led to the bright sparks of my own creativity:

"'s a lesson in hidden potential.  You never know what might happen.  In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could 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."

Inspiration.  You never know where it's going to come from, or what the impact might be...


  1. We truly don't exercise our brains enough. Or use our creative side sometimes in our daily routine. So agree with this. Enjoy your day!

    1. I read like a madwoman--which I consider a great mental exercise--and often dink on the computer with mind games.

      It's the inspiration for a whole plot/book that sometimes fails me, or freaks me out. 642 Things really helped, and the prompts are fun...