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!
Holy smokes, pals, we’ve almost been at this for a year now! YES! How’d we all do gettin’ small? I’ve always loved and really appreciated short prose, so I thought this was a fun one. As a reader, I find that stumbling upon a single, perfect turn of phrase is as satisfying as finishing a massive novel—and as a writer, I seem to collect short, fully-formed snippets that have no beginning or end, and instead just exist as impossibly brief middles. Those usually just come naturally, so putting on the constraints of size was actually an interesting challenge. Now, I need to decide what to do with all the bits and pieces…
In the meantime, on to the next!
#15: Eat, Drink, and Be… Something
The holidays—I’m referring here to the amorphous three-ish months that mark the end of one year and the beginning of another—are loaded with all kinds of things: emotions, traditions, travel, family, celebrations, stress, and, generally, lots and lots of food. Like—so much food. From delicious manufactured junk that only appears during this strange, special time (I’m looking at you, peppermint bark) to the epic mealtimes that punctuate get-togethers, eating is often done in excess to share love, drown loneliness, and everything in between.
This year I propose we think—and write!—before and/or after we dine, nibble, and nosh.
—You’re going to be writing about food here, so it’s likely that, in addition to laptop, pen, and paper, you’ll have a snack nearby. I’d also recommend a napkin.
The starting point for your creative explorations this session is consumption, in all its decadent, sometimes depressing glory. Consider all of the elements of a seasonal meal, and take each one as a tale in itself: imagine the turkey farmer who raised the bird you feasted on; delve into the day of the dude who unapologetically grabbed the last bag of croutons at the store before you could nab it; follow the path of your potatoes from dirty underground tubers to mashed and buttered beauts; ask your mom about the first time she remembers trying her great-grandmother’s special stuffing recipe; compose a missed connection for the cute fellow in the deli section at the grocery who served you sliced meats with a smile; mourn the pecan pie you fumbled as it came out of the oven, dropping piping hot nut guts all over the kitchen floor.
There are a million stories to be mined by what we do (and do not) put in our mouths. Think about the edibles that are unique to these weeks between November and January, and let them be your muse.
Since feeding oneself to the brink of “ugh” is often a response to the steadily growing stresses of the season, try jotting some notes down every time you sneak into the kitchen for leftovers, or consider your second pumpkin spice latte of the afternoon, or think just oooonnneee more handful of red-and-green M&Ms. You should have built up a hearty selection of words once New Year’s comes and goes.
Take a trip to the newsstand and flip through the endless array of food mags for some visual stimulation. Bon Appetit and Lucky Peach are always great bets for solid writing and bang-up design.
As always, if you’re just joining us here, now’s a good time to catch up on the previous posts in the series.
#14: Let’s Get Small
#13: Sliding Doors
#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
#1: Pencil on Paper