you know my favorite daily theme from the week is going to be the one with the seinfeld reference. today’s figment friday channels george costanza. it was fun to write, but this is honestly my least favorite of the responses i’ve shared. it’s pretty uninteresting and seriously lacking in creativity.
PROMPT: In “The Busboy” episode of Seinfeld, George refers to moments like letting the car warm-up or waiting for your hair conditioner to work as “tough minutes.” Narrate a character’s thoughts in one of these “tough minutes.” What does he or she think about during those interminable seconds?
downloading…downloading…c’mon, load already! why is it stuck at 47 percent? did i lose connection? no, it’s just slow. i don’t remember the internet here being so sluggish.
don’t watch the status bar, or it’ll never complete. it’s like waiting for water to boil. find something else to do…make a phone call. um…i know, i need to let corey know about the schedule change, anyway. oh, but it would probably be better in an email. yeah, i’ll email him later.
maybe i’ll get a refill of tea. what time is it…almost lunch? ugh, not nearly. i’m gonna need a snack. only 62 percent?! okay, stop looking at it.
i’ll go get that paperwork from the car after i order something to drink and eat. but as soon as i start working on something else, it will finish downloading, of course.
oh! it’s finally done! what? “cannot open file.” you’ve got to be kidding me.
Prompt: Inspired by Elisa, who is pushed into a political marriage on her 16th birthday in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, write a story about a significant birthday in 16 words or fewer.
“gerald can’t upstage me on my 85th birthday,” herb thought as he dramatically clutched his chest.
it seems as if the figment daily themes editors are purposely saving the best prompts for last each week, because friday’s theme is consistently my favorite (and therefore the one i want to share) (meaning that figment friday gets posted later in the day) (not that anyone notices ). today’s theme leads me to share some insight into my average day.
PROMPT: Harper’s Index is famous for creating curated lists of numbers and statistics, deftly arranged in order to make a larger, often political, point (example here). Similarly, McSweeney’s often uses the structure of the index as a character sketch, organizing personal statistics to reveal something intimate, often ironic, about the writer (example here).
For today’s theme, try your hand at creating your own personal index, illustrating how you spend a typical day.
approximate number of things on my to-do list when i wake up: 84
percentage of those items that will remain “to-do” when i go to sleep: 75
chances that the tasks accomplished will not be the ones intended for that date: 3 in 5
minimum cups of tea required to fuel my day: 6
frequency of pointless distractions: 3 per hour
number of times i open the back door to let the dogs in or out if i work from home: 14
number of times i stop working to chat with a friend if i work from a local coffee shop: 14
percentage by which distractions tighten deadlines: 100
percentage by which my efficiency increases under looming deadlines: 200
estimated number of emails sent or received containing the words “revise,” “draft,” or “review” in the subject line: 17
number of emails received that fall into the “newsletters i subscribe to but will barely have time to skim” category: 12
average number of minutes spent throughout the day smiling at photos of my niece: 7
hours spent running errands: 2
percentage of those hours spent standing in line: 25
percentage of line-waiting time spent reading on my phone:90
chances that i will try to fit in time to run: 3 in 7
percentage increase of run cravings over the previous decade: 300
factor by which food is more likely than entertainment to motivate me to finish work or chores: 5.6
average minutes spent watching tv with lee: 90
probability that i will be snacking while we watch: .99
minutes spent missing my mom: more than i wish to count
minutes spent worrying that i’m not living up to my goals, others’ expectations, or God’s plan for me: more than i should
minutes spent feeling like the luckiest girl in the world: more than i deserve
minutes spent in prayer to make it through the day: incalculable
likelihood, in percent, that at the end of the day i will feel that life is good: 100
well, better late than never. the day is almost over, but it’s still figment friday, and i’m sticking to my commitment. today’s installment is delayed because once i read this morning’s prompt, i knew this was the one from this week i wanted to share, but i didn’t have time to write it until now. (it’s easier when i can post a daily theme from earlier in the week.)
PROMPT: Choose a person you encounter on a regular basis but don’t know well. Ideally this should be a person who, for whatever your reason, has caught your interest or piqued your curiosity. Now, in second person write about a brief moment in that person’s day.
you always pick up your worn leather bag by grasping a handful of material rather than by the handles. i know this because i see you do it every day as you leave your cozy corner of the coffeehouse.
it’s the same routine every time: stuff the assorted books, pens, and notebooks into the seemingly bottomless satchel. re-don an array of accessories from scarves to sunglasses. pay your tab at the counter and shove a generous bill into the tip jar. call out a friendly, and often funny, farewell to each of the patrons at the surrounding tables. grab a fistful of soft leather and nestle your carryall under your arm as you whistle your way out the door.
what are you working on so intensely every day? do you arrive pre-dawn to set up camp in your regular spot? no matter how early i show up, you seem as if you’ve been sipping lattes and creating for hours on end. if i weren’t hunched over my computer with my hat pulled down low in an obvious attempt to remain anonymous, would you know my name, too?
i thank you, enigmatic leather bag guy. you may not know me, but you inspire me to start earlier, be fully immersed in my efforts, and whistle while i work.
it’s figment friday around here, and i’m still enjoying writing in response to the daily themes from figment. sharing one theme each week is still scary and uncomfortable, though. posting for this weekly commitment is the first time in 3 1/2 years of blogging that i’ve published bits of fiction. i’ve always stuck to real life, and it took me awhile to get comfortable with even that. offering something that was created in my imagination feels more vulnerable, somehow. but that’s the kind of challenge that i’m determined to meet in this year of sharing more.
the topic of the week on okieOLIO has been the story of my running transformation, so i decided to keep that theme as i wrote each day this week. i’m going to put the prompt for the piece i’m sharing today at the end so that it won’t influence the way you read it. if you’ve ever taken a class on creative writing, there’s a possibility that you’ve done a similar exercise, because it’s not uncommon among writing teachers. i chose it from this week’s themes because i know that my normal writing style works in opposition to these guidelines. here it is:
my dogs lie on the floor and watch me lace up my shoes. can we come with you? their big eyes plead. “not this time,” i say out loud as i reach for my shades. i know that this will be a good run. i can feel it. i don’t want a hard tug at the leash or pee pit stops to break up my pace.
as soon as i crack the front door, i am met with the warm, damp wind of june. it seems too warm for such a wee hour. i turn to the dogs and warn them, “we have quite a hot day in store for us, guys.” oh, i can’t wait for the cool temps this fall! i think as i close and lock the door. but the heat does not mean a thing. my legs yearn to move and i have steam to blow off. both good signs that i can beat my goal for this run.
the path by the pond is all mine. i take the loop twice, then turn on the main road when three young boys show up on their bikes. the sun starts to rise, the wind picks up, and i turn it up a notch as a strong song plays in my ears. my feet move as if part of a wheel that rolls by it’s own force—i am just on a ride. i feel at ease as i breathe in time with my steps and the beat of the tune, and soon my mind is lost in thought.
i’m shocked when i see that i’ve made it back to my house, and i check the app on my phone to make sure i ran as far as i planned. cheered by what i see, i walk in the door and tell the ones who wait for me each day, “yeah, it was a good one.”
PROMPT: This is a prompt I love to use when I first meet a new class. I tell them to take out their pens and write me a piece–the theme is up to them. It need not be long. But it needs to be a real scene. And the sole rule that frames what they write is this: You may not use a word with more than one syllable. It sounds hard, but “syllable” is the lone word used here that has more than one.
Today’s theme comes from Nathan Englander, whose new collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, came out this week to raves.
one down, two more months of figment friday to go. i’m still diligently churning out bits of fiction each morning. i only skipped one daily theme this week. today’s share is actually not too far from nonfiction.
PROMPT: Write an active scene entirely in dialogue. No quotation marks; no he said-she said; no description of action—just the words the characters say. Don’t explicitly tell us what the activity is, but through your characters’ dialogue, make it clear what they’re doing.
where did he go?
the bedroom, i think.
i told you not to leave the door open.
it was hot in there!
why did he bolt, anyway?
you know he tries to escape every time. check the closet.
nope. maybe under the bed?
aha! there you are! c’mon, boy. Buddy, come! come here…
that’s not gonna work. we’ll have to force him out.
okay, you get on that side and push him my way.
i can’t fit under there! i need something to drive him toward you.
get your hairdryer. he hates that thing.
oh, yeah! . . . …is it working?
here he comes! got yo– *$#%!
how did he get past you?
he’s all soapy! he slipped right through my hands!
did he head for the living room?! hurry, before he gets the couch all wet.
no, he went into the kitchen. maybe we can corner him by the sink.
you take the right side and i’ll take the left. go slowly.
oh! so close! he’s too quick. how does he change directions that fast?
aauugh! now he thinks it’s a game! grab a treat to get his attention.
good idea. heeeey, boy! want a cookie? look what i’ve got for you!
well, at least he’s standing still, now. use another one to lure him back into the bathroom.
i can’t believe he fell for it! we should’ve tried that in the first place.
why do we even bother giving him a bath? he’s just gonna go outside and dig again!
you want him tracking all that mud in the house?
(sigh) no, of course not. just close the door next time, okay?
fine. hand me a towel, will you?