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50/50 Exercise #50: Fifty Things That Come Next

  1. I will experiment with writing at several different times of day (in the same day), for several days in a row, mixing it up with an occasional day off, etc., to see whether there are some patterns and habits that work better than others.
  2. I will look for magazines and journals that publish the kind of things I like to write.
  3. I will develop a habit for working in several different forms and stages of creative production in parallel, keeping lots of balls in the air—stream-of-consciousness exercises, first drafts, editing and polishing, final drafts, brainstorming exercises, idea-mapping, creative play, etc., in short fiction, personal essay, memoir, flash fiction, a book-length project or two, etc.
  4. Topic: My writing day
  5. I will learn to work in noisy, public places (as a change of pace, not for the bulk of my work).
  6. Topic: My ideal place to write
  7. I will develop more one-on-one social contact with other writers.
  8. I will experiment in combining my everyday writing routine with travel.
  9. I will read with greater intentionality and more careful attention.
  10. I will also read for the joy of reading.
  11. I will make some income writing.
  12. I will win a writing contest.
  13. I will attend more readings by writers whose work I enjoy.
  14. I will subscribe to more periodicals that publish fiction.
  15. I will write on nights when I’m sure that I’m much too tired to write.
  16. Topic: Life in the suburbs
  17. When someone makes a suggestion about a text I’ve written, I will pay careful attention.
  18. I will go on a retreat to a beautiful place when I can write in a peaceful setting.
  19. I will write second (and third) drafts of some of the many first-draft pieces in my possession.
  20. I will open a separate checking account for my writing work.
  21. I will start a QuickBooks file to track the finances of my writing career.
  22. Topic: Imagination as the root of “intuition”
  23. I will return to the practice of keeping a reading list.
  24. Topic: The waterfall at Cade’s Cove, Tennessee
  25. I will schedule writing times and then honor them, even when presented with the tempting offer of a social outing. (But not every time.)
  26. I will explore more deeply the development of characters.
  27. I will experiment with unusual forms.
  28. I will write a six-word bio. (Or many of them.)
  29. I will idea-map on a more regular basis.
  30. I will seek out workshops on some specific areas of writing craft: characterization, writing dialog, etc.
  31. When I travel, I will keep travelogues. But I will try to tell a few interesting stories or observations instead of an exhaustive journal of the trip.
  32. I will figure out how to enable Gallery 2 software to make it easier to incorporate images into my blog.
  33. I will pursue the idea of using my blog as a form of postcard for my next big trip.
  34. Topic: Deception
  35. I will refine a couple of pieces to read at the Spectrum Center Community Reading on April 13.
  36. I will write a book to dedicate to Gika. (Guess who suggested this one.)
  37. Topic: The smell of the bathroom at Latina Café.
  38. I will fire an irritating graphic-design client (or all of them).
  39. Topic: Pasteleria
  40. I will go to the beach.
  41. Topic: The new cathedral in Houston
  42. I will take a few days off from writing to reflect on having completed the 50/50 class.
  43. I will beat myself up about letting my writing habit lapse for a couple of weeks when I had been doing so well.
  44. I will stop reading books about creativity.
  45. Topic: College roommates
  46. I will still think of myself as a creative person even if I’m not having a creative day.
  47. I will feel free to disregard writing advice that doesn’t make sense for my style and voice.
  48. I will agonize over the last exercise, dragging it out for days and days and days.
  49. I will leave this exercise unfinished in the interest of getting on with writing.
  50. And then I thought of a few more things that ought to be on the list.

  51. I will put together the curriculum for a workshop on new technologies for writers.
  52. I will reinstitute the good filing habits that fell by the wayside when I started the 50/50 class.
  53. I will remain curious about ways to improve my writing practice.
  54. I will try to have lots of fun.
  55. I will get better at it.

Note: The assignment was to “make a list of fifty things that might come next for you as a writer.” I’ve been working on it on and off for the last 19 days. Enough!

The items marked with a “strikethrough” line have already been completed.

© 2008 Edward F. Gumnick

50/50 Exercise #48: Indispensable

The car bumps and shudders over broken pavement and rutted dirt. It makes a lot of turns. I try for a while to track our route, but I lose count after only a few minutes. I have no idea how long I was unconscious.

As I’m trying to piece together some kind of pattern in the few available clues, we make a turn uphill and onto a smoother road. The car picks up speed. Unless I was out for more than an hour, it seems likely that we’re on the Via Nacional, which means …more

50/50 Exercise #47: “Two Pages” from Abigail Thomas

“I picked up your shirts at the dry cleaners today,” she said.

“Which shirts?”

“The ones I took last week. Your favorite blue one was in there.”

“Which dry cleaner did you go to?”

“Across from the oil-change place.”

“The oil-change place on 15th?

“No, over by the school.


“You’ll never guess who I ran into at Walgreen’s …more

50/50 Exercise #49: Keeping a Spirit Alive

I think I was half asleep. You know how sometimes you’re lying there, and you think you’re still awake, and then all of a sudden, you feel like you’re falling? And then something brings you up to wide awake again. You think, Was that my own voice? You know that feeling?

I had a weird sensation, not exactly like that, but close, and then I sat up and looked over at her pillow. I might have even called her name before everything came rushing back at me. She’s gone, oh God, oh jeez, goddamn, she’s gone. Get a grip, Mike, get it together. …more

Don’t worry!

I’m not ignoring Exercises #47 and #48. But #49 jumped to the head of the line and refused to let me write anything else until I’d worked on it.

50/50 Exercise #46: The Fixer

The Fixer works mostly at night. The Fixer addresses his attention to problems that no one else has the time, the power, or the will to solve.

The Fixer knows who should and shouldn’t park in handicapped spaces. He lets the air out of a tire. In a hard case, the Fixer lets the air out of two tires.

The Fixer calls the police to report the noisy party that’s keeping you from sleeping on the night before your big presentation. He tells the dispatcher that he’s pretty sure they’re serving booze to teenagers over there. …more

50/50 Exercise #45: Linking Texts Together

Dear Bunny Rabbit,

You’ve gotten me in big trouble now. I know you’re a good-hearted and thoughtful fellow, but I think maybe you’re too chatty.

I keep getting sad looks from all the other bunnies. I try to explain that the haiku I wrote was a gift for all the rabbits in the park. Sure, you and I have a special bond, but I feel a lot of fondness for your whole species.

Anyway, I’ve started work on an epic poem …more

50/50 Exercise #44: Confessional Text

“We went to the Half Moon after we got off work. Lorraine wanted a drink ’cause she says it’s all over with Bobby, there’s no way she’s gonna take him back again. I said no, I’m due back here at 7:30, and she said, oh come on, just come with me for one.

“So we took her car, and I left mine behind the diner where I always park it. ’Cause you know I’d always rather ride with somebody else, especially if I’m gonna be drinking. And it was Lo who invited me to this party, so I figured she could make sure I got home.

“That guy with the arms was working the back bar …more

50/50 Exercise #43: Identity and Place

“This is my city, and I am as much a Roman as anyone here.”

—Words that I will put in the mouth of a fictional character one of these days

The prompt is to describe a place—a location “that is meaningful and powerful for you,” and then to write about who you are in that place. I’m thrilled and terrified by this assignment. No one who knows me will be surprised at my choice. It’s the place that I return again and again—Rome.

I’m excited by the task because I’m always happy to think about Rome. I can talk about it for hours and hours. I’m scared because …more

50/50 Exercise #42: Say YES

He was in that state where you’re not quite asleep and not quite awake. I tried to wake him, but found that I couldn’t form words that would mean anything. He sat upright in the bed and called out my name. He couldn’t hear my answer.

I felt again the pain of being separated from him. His face looked as if he were struggling to remember something.

He turned away to reach for something on the bedside table. I wanted to say, “Please, no, Michael, don’t turn your back on me.” …more