A televangelist has just been elected president of the United States. Write his/her inaugural address.
Write a haiku about your underwear.
Tell the story of one of your scars.
Oh it’s a genius tome is the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto book. A sort of creative writing class if you will, with mind-bogglingly good prompts of things to write about. Except there are no participants other than yourself. Oh, and your pen. I’m currently on 712 More Things To Write About, but start off with its first incarnation: 642 Things To Write About. Recent nib to paper has included: ‘instructions on how to tie a bow?’ – G-d help anyone planning to use said instructions – and ‘you are a giant. What’s on your to-do list today?’ Which stumped me, because I am literally a giant.
So many questions to answer has got me thinking about one in particular. When I go and visit someone I see more often than not, the first thing he always asks me is “how are you?” And I never know what to say. I’ve toyed with: No, Really, How Are You? Why Do Americans Pronounce Parmesan as in Azerbai(d)jan? How Do You Fold Your Jumpers? You get my drift though. Why are three little words so imbued with meaning, and often, terror. I think what I’d really like to say in response is: I’m Maverick And Eclectic, But Also Warm And Wise. Or. Take It Down The Track, My Son. Numerating our emotional responses warrants deep structure and universal grammar, which sort of tally’s with Einstein’s: the important thing is not to stop questioning.
Maybe I don’t want to be so easily pinned down. Responding pejoratively, majoratively, declaratively, interrogatively or even imperatively is a quiz me no likey. I can be quoted. I can be embarrassed. I can bite (if I’m quoted and embarrassed). The question is akin to ‘Why should we hire you?’ And. ‘What motivates you?’ I’m thinking of starting all new conversations with, ‘How creepy are you?’ Note to my local grocer: never making eye contact makes you very creepy.
Quite a while ago, Amanda Palmer did a TED talk on the “Art of Asking.” As an aside, she’s married to one of my favorite literary luminaries, Neil Gaiman. I only bring it up as when asked by a journalist to summarize her marriage (presumably with a big fat question mark) she said, “two children in mutual confusion.” Genius. Her first Kickstarter campaign sought $100,000 and raised $1.2 million, and since then, she’s been singing the praises of crowdfunding as a new populist paradigm for art, most visibly in the talk. She also said: “The system is going to start favoring the direct voice of the people”. I’m not going to enter into anymore polemics on this subject. You’ll just have to take what I say and try out some questions for yourselves. This is best done when you have a spare fifteen minutes. This is the key to the ethos ‘spare’. You’re over the stove say, making stock, or muffins (can they really rise in fifteen minutes?). And just think what you can do with said fifteen minutes(!): ‘the mouse of thought’, meditate, make love, listen to Ella, write the haiku from above, and so on. Remember this. Over the course of years, this will add up to countless hours of your life regained. So, tell me, really, how are you? No, really?