For Those About To Write (We Salute You) #13: Sliding Doors

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For Those About To Write (We Salute You) will present a writing exercise to the Ploughshares community every few weeks. We heartily encourage everyone reading to take part!  

Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 12.48.22 AMLast session we took a brief break from writing to set some goals for ourselves. And because accountability can help keep that kind of thing on track—and because I greatly appreciate y’all taking on these exercises with me this year—I’ll share mine with you here:

1) By the end of March of next year I would like to write and edit a fully formed short story, one that’s ready to send out to a journal or competition. This year has been pretty damn decent in terms of sheer volume of words produced, just putting together and following this series alone, but everything’s a bit… scattered. I have yet to latch onto a concept I’m jazzed enough about to develop into something larger, and outside the confines of a dedicated class or workshop, it can be tough to pull a deadline out of thin air and just go for it.

2) I’m on a mission to put actual pen to real paper and drop more notes in the mail. So from now through the end of the year, I’m going to send out a postcard a week to a pal. Just a little something to say hi. Just enough to spread a teeny bit of analog love.

And now, onto the next challenge!

#13: Sliding Doors

There are certain moments that stick with you because they are honest-to-goodness turning points in the open-ended plot that is your life; accidents, deaths, new jobs or layoffs, these can be identified as distinctive because in an instant, things changed. These strange almost-weres are forever nearly unfolding, but you’ll never know the directions they might have taken your earthly existence because, well, they didn’t actually happen.

This week we’ll be creatively reinterpreting history: fixing d’oh moments, imagining what might/could/should have been, masterminding alternate universes, saving loved ones from cruel fates or sending jerks into a tailspin.


-Choose your favorite writing utensils.


Before you start writing, sit and consider the concept for a bit. See what ideas float into your head. Chances are you’ll have a few that will pop in immediately, situations where you wish you’d acted differently, stayed or gone, said that one thing that needed to be said. If it’s too painful or uncomfortable to consider your own life, turn towards fiction and give beloved characters a fresh start, or dislikable sorts an early demise. Mix it up!

Time commitment: 

Spend at least ten minutes thinking before you get into things, then try writing on a single scene for an hour, all told. Break it up if you need to, but give it some room to grow into something new.

Recommended Reading: 

I got the idea for this exercise after reading this review on The Dissolve about a new film called Mr. Nobody. The movie itself sounds interesting, but the reviewer does a great job of elucidating the complex “many-worlds” hypothesis of quantum mechanics. Fascinating, and well worth a read.

As always, if you’re just joining us here, now’s a good time to catch up on the previous posts in the series.

#12: The To Do List

#11: Guided By Voices

#10: Everything You Always Wanted To Write About Sex *But Were Afraid To Try

#9: Q & A & Q & A ….

#8: Cut & Paste

#7: Show & Tell

#6: Stop, Look, and Listen

#5: Take a (Mindful) Break

#4: Go Big

#3: Letters

#2: Prompts

#1: Pencil on Paper

lead image via Sodahead