Let’s see what muse-phlegm this thing coughs up tonight:
“What vehicle did you sit in? Write a story or memory that takes place at a drive-in movie theater.”
“Did you study? Write about a time when you were taking some type of test.”
“How long until it broke? Write about a toy you didn’t play with properly.”
“What would it be made out of? Write about a monument you wished you could build to honor someone you know or knew.”
“Why didn’t you want to believe them? Even if you don’t believe in fortune telling, write about a fictional (or true) experience where you visit someone who knows something about your future.”
Cripes. This one didn’t make me cringe too much.
Oh. And to finish up the last one for my friend Fred: blah blah blah. She got cold feet.
Sr. Antonio de Silva snugged the theodolite into it’s wooden case. Pocketed the key. And stood. The sudden movement dropped his blood pressure shivering him to an unsteady balance between consciousness and unconcious. The moment the blackness thinned and he could see the tripod, he snatched out an arm to steady himself.
The project plan neatly curled in a tube at his feet and his whole weak body told him he’d not live to see this monstrosity fly. His brain and his heart—not the organ in his chest—rebuked his frame with a question: who could take up the chore if he passed? De Silva went to sleep with this question and chewed on it over breakfast when he rose.
Before I write a third four line graph I’m gonna cut off here.
After abandonning four random prompts I’m going with this one:
“Where were your shoes? Write about an interesting time when you happened to be barefoot. Begin and end your writing with a description of your feet.”
Amy smiled at the shape of her feet. Singley or paired their profile presented an authentic feminine appearance: petite, but not too narrow; distinct toes that neither blended into a mob near the pinkie nor highlighted the one that went to town as an overbearing brute; neatly trimmed nails; and most importantly a slender approach through the ankle.
She’d have to kill herself if she had cankles. There were plenty of things Amy would have to kill herself over. Cankles would surely fall in the first ten if she bothered to list them out.
“Come on Amy Baimy!” Jack called to her. Amy’s thoughts swept back a two years or so when they first came to the beach together. He tied his tounge trying to say ‘Amy Baby’. Each time he tried and failed they laughed more until he gave up.
“Come on,” Jack pleaded from the waves. Amy stood and brushed the sand from her bottom and adjusted her hair better in her big floppy hat. She wished for her shorts so she could stomp in the water with Jack, but these white capris with their v-notched cuffs added a dynamic she couldn’t explain and she chose them instead. Today would be about romance, not splashing anyway.
I’m just going to end there.
I’m not a fan of writing prompts because I don’t find them compelling. All prompts are contrived. An anonymous composer, should I say contriver, distilled a a drop or two of essence from a particularly rewarding writing session. They packaged it as a question or situation or evocative eliptical. That half-teaspoon of muse soaked into the page of a student writing workbook or a random generator on the Internet. Here is sits before me.
Why the hell should this matter to me? Obviously I wipe it away before I begin typing.
Wait. A real writer, a professional writer, could compose a 1000 words from any featureless request. Couldn’t they? Shouldn’t I at least try?
In High School I tried because I didn’t have a choice. Mr. Brainard—he said he could see me becoming a pro—gave us a prompt and expected results before the end of the hour. He didn’t grade on quantity or quality or creativity. I’m sure he prised those things, but he didn’t mark against a lack of any of those. He marked against nothing. He didn’t grade on the relationship to the prompt either. As I recall, at least once I refused the prompt and wrote what I wanted to write.
As I write this, it comes to mind that writing to a prompt gave me the freedom not to worry over the output. I blamed the prompt for uninteresting results.
Still, I find it difficult to treat prompts as if they were a workout, a training regimine. Prompts don’t parallel free throws and layups as much as they do a game of HORSE. I guess shooting more baskets is better than shooting less regardless of the scenario, but adding nine other guys to the court, a second basket, a ref, and a time clock is not a linear progression of difficulty.
This week I’ll work from prompts despite my thin enthusiasm for them. I will try really really hard not to waste my time clicking through the bad ones to find less bad ones hoping to find good ones.
I recently read a post over at Zen Habits regarding creative inspiration hacks. The guest post by blogger Ben Cook lists five sources for inspiration regarding blogging. Initially I was surprised that he listed ‘Art’ as the last and least likely to consider muse, but he’s talking blogging in the regular sense not the stuff we do here at 1000 Days.
I used to collect links to great art that I knew would inspire me once I had the time to pay it some heed. I suspect had I looked harder and sooner I’d have come across plenty of starving artist portfolios. Some not so hungry I bet too. I mentioned Gorilla Artfare before, but I am going to do it again in the same month because right now they are doing it for me. Right now they are cranking out arguments against any writer’s block I might lamely posit as credible. I suspect they’d be able to stave off any casual speculative fiction work stoppage that you might have as well.
I don’t know that any of my prose here would be all that inspiring for an illustrator. If you are one and you find some, then feel free to create a visual derivative. Let me know in the comments if you do.
Today I am riffing on the piece on page 14 of the 2d Artist Magazine Patri Balanovsky was interviewed for….by….in?
The 14-spined Banyan Bison
This native of the forest edges of southern Dilingon Nato is rarely captured on film–at least as far as this author knows. This particular illustration is based on a combination of aboriginal storytelling, second-hand accounts, and distant personal sightings over a number of years spent in the tall-bush.
A Banyan Bull is marked by several outstanding characteristics. Most notable is the one that lends to the animal’s namesake: the unique banyan-like muscles which separate from the lower legs into thick strands and meet back up at the heel of the broad elephantine foot. It is thought that this separation substantially increases the animal’s leverage and therefore efficiency and speed. Further speculation by some fewer authorities–your author among them–suggests that these separate ropey muscles are able to cool more quickly. At twice the size of a Bismark Elephant you’d expect this animal to lumbar sluggishly, but in reality it is quite swift and remarkably nimble.
It’s gaping maw never closes and probably can’t considering the scale and proportion of it’s fang-like teeth. No one has ever found a skeleton of the animal that included the teeth. Most megafauna fans and biologists take Grainer’s word that the teeth are composed much like the horn of a rhino of hair rather than dentine and that the teeth simply decay as quickly as the flesh [Grainer, H.L. (2035). ‘Dentilogical Studies of Mega and Submegafauna’. Nature 749: 632-40].
The barely 14 dorsal spines of the of the beast are of course typically used to cool animals of this size, but the surface area and apparent cartilaginous or potentially even boney make up of the Banyan Bison spines makes them an insignificant heat sink. Most field reports and indeed the most dramatic of all local tales make these out as weapons in mating clashes between bulls. The animal will duck it’s head very low while running at it’s competitor full speed. Just before they clash each bull leaps toward his opponent with his back leading the way. They clash no more than a couple times before the lessor of the two is so bloody and injured that he is compelled to quit the endeavor. Ancient myths boast that following particularly raucous mating the breeding pair may even kill and eat the loser.
Word count: 629
From prompt #197.
I just started seeing more of Trey.
In the one class we shared, Chemistry II, he no longer bolted for the door when Prof. Chang concluded a lecture. Instead he’d arrange his notes, sigh, and place his books one at a time into his bag. In the regular cafeteria in Parker Hall West he’d face my direction rather than show me his back or worse just get his cheeseburger to go. I’d even seen him shooting hoops at Jasper during my scheduled karate classes. He never said anything.
Back home in Bixby, we’d had a barn cat–we had plenty–but we had this one in particular that habitually sat on the fifty gallon drum that held grain for the horses. His perch warmed in the morning sun and stayed cool in the shade of a long overhang in the afternoon. Entertaining mice congregated in the spillage. Other barnies’d scatter when I threw the latch on the back gate from the house. They went leisurely, not like a rabbit might, but they did go. This one I had in mind’d stay curled up pretending sleep. I brought bits of store bought cat food when I watered the llamas in the evening.
One day when it was dark early he sat upright on the drum in the porch light. I pulled a few bits of kibble from my Carharts to place on the drum in front of him. “Dammit!” He snapped my hand like it was a bird taking flight in front of him. He pulled the food from my fingers. He purred after that.
Trey pulled his old Corolla into one of the good spots near the dorm and right on the edge of Chamber’s Lawn where we played Frisbee. He arranged his sunshade carefully and took time cleaning out the Taco Bell cups and wrappers that built up in the floorboard of the passenger’s side. Tweep. He finally set the alarm and headed the long way past us to the entrance.
“Trey!” I called out. “If we had one more person we could play Frisbee football instead of just throwing it in a circle.”
“Sure. What the hell.”
He ran up to me. I said, “Hey man. Sorry.”
“Pussy. I knew you’d cave first.”
Word count: 389
Let’s see what we can do to stem the tide of lame. Somewhat. I am going to dig up a prompt, maybe it will help, maybe it will reset the lame to a cheesier level.
This morning, this was the best of the lot…
“How did it get in there? Write a story where a character finds something interesting in an accidentally-broken keepsake.”
Seems like I did something like this with a shell in a bottle?
Motes rise and fall in the antique beams of the setting sun. James is struck by the notion that they do this daily whether he’s in the attic to witness or not. He swipes his hand through the gentle ballet to aggravate the dancers. Before the swirls and eddies subside he’s disinterested again.
Upon returning to his mother’s home following her funeral his first inclination was to clean. The dishes are five days dry–they can wait. The sink trash has a fresh bag and a single Windex stained paper towel at the bottom. He pulls the table back from the wall where it was pushed; he straightens the chairs a bit. He is not surprised there is nothing to do in this room-mom’s office they called it.
Into the family dinning room the twenty years ignored record player attracts his attention. In fact, once he’s noticed it, it’s like an orange in a bowl of apples or a butterfly on snow. James kneels in front of the standup shelf that’s vaguely listing toward the east wall. He pulls away the plastic cover and pokes the On button; nothing happens. Of course the thing is unplugged; he toggles the player off, plugs it in, and turns it back to on.
A dim orange light surrounds the On button. A soft static crackles to life in the speakers.
Ok, gotta go. The plan here in case you didn’t see where I was going was to find an LP in the attic to play. He’d discover a letter of some sort in the album sleeve. Traditionally thats where I would leave it hanging and never know where or how to pick up from there.
Word count: 354