“Write about something you do well.”
I’m incensed. My heart pounds, my face flushes and steam pours out of my ears, cartoon style. Of all the asinine writing prompts, this one infuriates me like finding another effing phone book on my door step.
But why? I’m sixty years old. Surely I’ve learned how to do a few things over the decades. You’d think.
This prompt triggers all of my self-criticism, that I don’t do anything well because I’m constantly taking off in different directions. It empowers that inner mean girl to berate me for mastering nothing, for honing new skills only to discard them like old socks with too many holes.
I put down my pen and refuse to write, allowing my inner toddler to pout.
Then, suddenly, I know.
I scribble madly.
Without any planning or preparation, set upon a massive project or a herculean task, something that lights you up. Something that will remake your entire life, your entire being, when complete. Disregard the nagging voice that suggests…you’ll never finish it. Resist the temptation to “start small.”
Next, set a wholly unrealistic deadline for completing this monumental undertaking. Not so outlandish that you can’t even pretend you’ll achieve it—not “by 5pm today,” for example. But do make it sufficiently vague so you’ll have plenty of wiggle room. “Pretty soon” will do.
Now, forget about it. Walk away from the endeavor while simultaneously basking in the sanctimonious glow of having set such a gargantuan goal. Let everyone know about this magnificent thing you’ve done…ahem, will do…but act as if it’s already been accomplished. Claim that pride right now!
When that nagging inner voice suggests you get to work on it, turn up the volume on the television or your TikTok feed to drown it out. You may need to sleep with a white noise machine set on HIGH.
When someone inquires, “how’s it going?” stare off vaguely, as if considering, rather than ignoring the question. Mask your horror when the busybody names the lofty aim that you’ve already celebrated completing—and never thought of again.
Change the subject.
When the day comes—and it will—when you can’t turn up the TV volume any louder, panic. Stare at the calendar agape. Curse your own ambitiousness, while searching for others to blame. Run around gathering random materials while your heart races. Scribble or build madly, giving up sleep and sanity while simultaneously scaling back the goal. Rationalize why this makes perfect sense. Over cocktails.