Here’s a Prompt… 642 of Them

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Going back to my internship last year with McSweeney’s, I’m glad to still be reminded of the little things I contributed that went a long way, and was caught off guard to stumble upon one of these achievements in the public. Which is that, I’ve contributed some writing prompts into the exclusive 642 Things to Write About: the Young Author’s Edition by 826 Valencia.

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The original series of journals, 642 Things to Write About, is published by The San Francisco Writer’s Groto, a renowned writer’s group with a variety of workshops in the city. Their compilation of offbeat writing prompts from many and famous authors is an amazing book I’d recommend to any writer, beginner to published and refined. But in this edition for the series, the target reader (or writer for that matter) is for the young ones, under 18 and fresh-minded with crazy imagination. And it sure is a great approach on 826’s end. Another founding of local lit legend Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia, simply named after its location in the Mission District, is where youngsters can get all the academic help they can from after school tutoring to polishing up their college essays with help from volunteers… me having been one of them! With this publication, the nonprofit takes their aid one step further in sparking any creativity at an early age. And the prompts selected into this book can bring so much potential, simply the best, out of any young writer. I was glad to do what I can for the cause. 826 reached out to McSweeney’s interns for some suggestions, so I sent in four small prompts on my behalf. After thumbing through the unnumbered but thick book, three of them are nicely grouped together towards the end (okay, maybe one of the prompts was weird and vague). Brief little directives, they can embody so much meaning or inspiration to each different individual who reads them:
• Write about a crow waiting at a bus stop
• Write about a “first”
• Write about a late night drive

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How would you start writing to these? It boils down to how these questions evoke memories or thoughts from one to another. “First” may translate over various experiences; first bike ride versus first time away from home or more gravely, the first death in a family. The late night drive post is a very exciting one I think too, having been inspired by my own drive in the late hours down to Orange County with my boyfriend (of which you can read in this essay). Maybe your own midnight drive for vacation, or a night out gone wrong or going with your mom to pick up someone from a red eye flight at the airport. Isn’t it great, the endless possibilities of just a few little words?

With prompts, your writing never has to be good. You just have to write, and keep writing constantly at that. The more you write, the better you’ll get at honing in on your skills. The randomness of each prompt, as well as how specific they might be, opens many doors for you while narrowing which ones to cross through. With each writing exercise you start to see what works and what needs improvement, and soon enough, what your style is and what inspires you on your own. And for a better estimate of improving, I’ll give you a number: 10,000. 10,000 hours is the time it’ll take for anyone to truly master their passion or skill. That should cover the whole duration of this book, I think?

Some other favorite prompts I recommend from the book by fellow creative and clever writers are:
• Write everything you know about being human
• Write from a balloons perspective after being released into the air
• You are a superhero’s little sibling. You are just an average kid but your older sibling can lift cars, fly, and break through brick walls. Write a diary entry about the day you learn of their superpowers. Are you excited? Nervous? Jealous?
• Write about a walk or trip you take almost everyday as if it’s in a guidebook to your city. What do you hope people will notice or look out for?
• Imagine a sound that is the most wonderful and the most terrible

So get writing! But if you’re itching to keep on par with getting in those 10,000 hours slowly and surely, do grab this book or any other 642 compilation to get the ink flowing!

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642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition. 826 Valencia, published by Chronicle Books, $16.95 at http://www.barnesandnoble.com

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