If you’re a writer, you’re familiar with the malaise that comes from too much vanilla bean and not enough hot sauce. The problem is this: you’re trying to be too nice.
“Look, I want to tell you this story, but I don’t want you to think I’m a crumb-cake.” So, you tone it down, smooth your skirt, and keep your knees primly together.
Yeah. Bad idea. If Hallmark is knocking on your door, begging you to work for them, it’s time to add more cowbell.
Here are a few writing prompts to kickstart your muse.
- You’ve just been arrested by the Writing Police. (This is a fun dialogue exercise.) The cop is accusing you of writing a run-on sentence on the Night of the Seventeenth. You don’t have an alibi and you have a past record for that time you stuck in an unnecessary apostrophe. You’re handcuffed, dragged to the station, and interrogated. How do you get out of this? How do you defend yourself? What does the cop look like? (I mean, is he cute, at least?) Are you remorseful? (I hope not) Write for ten minutes.
2. Write some juicy gossip about yourself. Make believe you’re one of your frenemies (don’t pretend you don’t have any), gossiping to someone about…you. Maybe it’s your outfit, maybe it’s your annoying gum chewing habit, or something more sinister; you stole money from the till and she knows it. In any case, write about yourself from the perspective of someone who doesn’t like you. Ten minutes.
3. Write a day in the life of your favorite grade school teacher. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Zembko, was a gem. She couldn’t have been more than thirty-five years old, but she always wore wool plaid skirts, ruffled white blouses, and very sensible flat shoes the color of wet cement. One day, I was shocked to see her in the grocery store squeezing plum tomatoes. Until then, I hadn’t realized she lived any sort of life outside of my classroom. A few months ago, I invented a ‘day in the life’ for Mrs. Zembko. I gave her a side gig as a salsa dancer and a husband who was always out of town. Pure fantasy. Apologies all round, especially to Mr. and Mrs. Zembko. Invent a life for your grade school (or high school) teacher. Ten minutes.