The new, new trend in book titles

For a time it was “The Girl [something something]” and then it was slapping the word “F*ck” (always with the asterisk) somewhere in the title, but I may have spotted the Next Big Trend in book titles, thanks to this from a recent Kobo newsletter:

That’s right, adding “Just” to the start of your title. Think of the possibilities:

  • Just The Girl On the Bridge Who Wasn’t There
  • Just Five Ways to Un-f*ck Your Routine
  • Just the Girl Who Said F*ck a Lot With the Panda Tattoo
  • Just the Way You Aren’t
  • Just Us For All
  • Just Another Nicest Missing Couple From Those People Next Door
  • Just Just Just! (the exclamation point is critical here)

And so many more. Get writing, kids! Or crank up the AI and just (heh) slap an appropriate title on the results. Riches1Or being banned or something. await you on Amazon.

Short stories about running as suggested by AI

I asked ChatGPT to give me the winning lottery numbers, and it didn’t, so instead, I asked for five short story titles about running. They were pretty dull, so I asked for five more that were funny and then another five that were weird.

The answers it gave were generally like ones you’d come up with while trying to brainstorm when you’re very tired and your brain’s most insistent thought is “Go to bed, for the love of all that is holy, go to bed.”

Here are a few I liked:

  • “Run Like the Wind, Trip Like the Clumsy”. I feel like ChatGPT scraped this blog to come up with this one.
  • “The Secret Society of Running Gnomes: Small Feet, Big Adventures”. This is a case where the title would probably be better than the actual story.
  • “The Quantum Run: When Every Step Leads to Parallel Universes”. I like the trippy potential of this. The title stinks, but the concept is good.

Will I take one of these ideas and turn it into a short story that might make one’s socks roll up and down in delight? Probably not, but I will say it’s more likely than me winning the lottery, so there’s that.

52 short stories in 52 weeks

Apparently Ray Bradbury advised beginning writers to try writing one short story per week for a year, rather than trying to tackle a novel first. The idea was that while you might write a bad novel on your first try, it was unlikely you could write 50+ bad stories in a row. I mean, you could, but you’d probably have to make an effort in that direction. And writers hate making that sort of concerted effort. At least I do.

And now I am intrigued with the idea of writing 52 short stories in 52 weeks. In fact, I’ve tried variations on this in the past, with varying degrees of success. I think what appeals to me here is that with only a week per story, I know I’m not going to write something particularly complex or grand, and I like that.

If I decide to go ahead on this, I’ll make an official™ announcement post. I could always end up just playing more Bejewelled 3, though.

10 light blog post topics

Once again, I consulted my favourite AI after the Master Control Program in TRON, ChatGPT, for 10 light blog topic ideas.

Rather than spread them out over 10 separate posts, I’m going to include all of them conveniently right here!

First, the topics suggested by ChatGPT:

  1. “5 easy DIY home decor ideas”
  2. “10 fun outdoor activities for families”
  3. “Healthy meal prep ideas for the week”
  4. “7 ways to boost your productivity at work”
  5. “A beginner’s guide to mindfulness meditation”
  6. “The benefits of practising gratitude daily”
  7. “How to create a successful morning routine”
  8. “The best books to read for personal growth”
  9. “Budget-friendly date night ideas”
  10. “The importance of self-care and ways to do it”.

And all 10 topics covered below, squashed into this one entry for your convenience and/or reading pleasure:

5 Easy DIY Home Decor Ideas

  1. Don’t just put your kids’ “interesting” drawings on the fridge, paper all the walls of your house with them. You may need more productive kids or many more kids to really make this idea shine.
  2. Take the plastic off your furniture. It’s time.
  3. Get rid of your pets. They shed all over everything. Fish are OK.
  4. Win the lottery and hire a professional interior decorator because let’s face it, you probably don’t know what you’re doing.
  5. Paint the walls with optical illusions that make it look like each room of your home is actually just a shabby corner of some grand palace.

10 Fun Outdoor Activities For Families

  1. Try to get the dog in the car
  2. Try to get the dog out of the car
  3. Lawn darts (note: I think this might be illegal now, so maybe check first to avoid getting arrested and/or having your kids taken away by the child welfare people)
  4. Jumping in puddles in the rain. Works best if you are under six years old.
  5. Count the ants at your picnic in the park
  6. Run away from the bees
  7. Go hiking around a lake, with trees and shit*
  8. Abuse nature with your off-road vehicle
  9. Visit exotic sand dunes, then relive the experience for the next week while you try to get the sand out of everything
  10. Crash your neighbour’s backyard barbecue. You’re pretty sure they like you.

* stolen from McSweeney’s

Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for the Week

  • Salad
  • A plate of raw vegetables
  • More salad
  • Tofu Surprise
  • Probably some more vegetables, maybe in soup this time. But no salt. Sodium is bad.
  • This feels like the right time for more salad
  • Eat out at that vegan place that curiously has no reviews after being open for four months

7 Ways to Boost Your Productivity at Work

  1. Hire someone better than you to do your work
  2. Put in long, grinding, soul-destroying hours
  3. Sharpen pencils on your own time
  4. Rig up one of those little dipping bird things to peck at your keyboard
  5. Get ChatGPT to do all of your programming, writing or email. Basically, anything that you would type out as part of your job.
  6. Encourage management to hire lousy slobs to make you look better in comparison
  7. Redefine your role to best suit your limited skill set

A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation

  • Remember to breathe, or you might pass out or maybe even die
  • Ignore the neighbours screaming and throwing things upstairs–it’s all part of finding inner peace
  • If your yoga position is causing excruciating pain, just remember: The pain is all in your mind

The Benefits of Practising Gratitude Daily

Gosh, this one is tough. I mean, I guess if you’re grateful for something, your life doesn’t totally suck, so that’s good! And being grateful usually means you’re happy about something, so you’re not thinking about how that rat you thought was your friend still owes you a hundred bucks. What’s their deal, anyway? Also, if you’re grateful, maybe you’ll enter an elevated state of mind where you come up with some super genius idea like cold fusion that works, or how to lick climate change. I mean, it’s theoretically possible.

How To Create a Successful Morning Routine

  1. Get up while it’s still morning.
  2. Do the things you need to do.
  3. Repeat every day until the day you die.
  4. You probably don’t need to do this as a ghost or whatever.

The Best Book to Read For Personal Growth

  • Any book with “growth” in the title that is not referring to fungal growth
  • Any book with “habit” in the title that is not about nuns. Or maybe a book about nuns is exactly what you need, sister!
  • “How to Influence People Through Hypnosis and Trickery”
  • Oh wait, I was only supposed to mention one book.
  • Fine, read The Handbook of Etiquette. Sure, it was written in 1860, but that probably means it’s free now, so you save money to put toward your personal growth. And it’s bound to have some decent advice in it. What’s really changed in 163 years?

Budget Friendly Date Night Ideas

  • Have your date pay for everything.
  • Stimulating conversation at the kitchen table
  • $10 bottle of wine and a $15 tent bought from Walmart, in the backyard. Make sure the dog is inside. The house, not the tent.
  • Watching the stars from a grassy hill. You may need to move to the Australian outback for this to really work now.
  • Charades. I’m kidding, you probably want a second date. Or to finish the first one.
  • Troll people on your favourite social media site. Make it a game you play together. See who garners the most angry responses or blocks!

The Importance of Self Care and Ways to Do It

First, if you don’t brush your teeth, it’s highly unlikely someone else will do it for you. So it’s important to do stuff like that unless you have extremely close and generous friends.

Taking care of yourself is best learned through watching endless hours of self-improvement videos on YouTube. There’s too many to list, but you’ll find them. Just watch them all for a few weeks. By the end you’ll be self caring like a mofo, as the kids say.

Also, avoid donuts. I know they are delicious, but they are bad for your teeth–which you have to brush yourself–and they probably contain chemicals that cause cancer.

If you find my advice useful, please support me through my Patreon.

I’m going to write more short short stories

UPDATE, October 1, 2023. This has not yet happened, but I’m thinking about it again less than a year later, which is less hopeless than usual in terms of “Will this actually happen?” So there’s that!

Yeah, nearly every promise I’ve made about writing I’ve broken in some way or other, but every time I come across some goofy old story I’ve written (usually based on a prompt or ridiculous high concept) I’ve always found things that delight me. Perhaps I’m just excellent at delighting myself.

But I’m going to try to write more of these. Plus, I think writing is just a good way to keep my mind nimble, to constantly force myself to write “its” when the entire internet is writing “it’s.”

What made me think of this was recalling that I had written a short-short story about that classic concept: Going back in time and killing Hitler, but imagining it from the perspective of a not-incredibly bright barista.

The story is here in case you are time travel curious: Writing prompt 1: Inevitable time travel

When I finally also do that other thing I always promise to do but never quite pull off, namely the redesign of this very blog, I’m going to collect all these short stories and fiction bits (mmm, fiction bits) so they can be easily accessed and enjoyed and/or wept over. Stay tuned!

Drawing prompts 2022: The Solution

A few days ago, I mulled over how to move forward on drawing prompts for the rest of the year.

I concluded with this promise/threat:

I’m going to give myself a deadline to come up with a plan. That deadline will be:

Sunday, March 20, 2022

March 20 has come and gone, so here is the plan. I’m going to give it a honking big title to be fancy.

The 2022 Drawing Prompt Plan

And that plan is to scrounge up a prompt from any random place I can find one. Possible prompt sources include:

  • Inktober (new or old)
  • Making Art Everyday (same)
  • Results from semi-random web searches:
    • Drawing prompt sites
    • Writing prompt sites
    • Miscellaneous searches on weird stuff that pops into my head
  • Random words in books
  • The inside of my own brain
  • The inside of someone else’s brain
  • A bunch of words printed out and put into a hat that I pull from
  • Benevolent super-intelligent aliens who take pity on me, the pathetic earthling

I’ll start on the prompts before the end of the week, then follow up with an assessment on how well this plan is working before the end of the month.

Prompt 1 of 5,000

Here we go again!

As previously mentioned, I’ll be going through Bryn Donovan’s book, 5,000 Writing Prompts, doing each prompt as a super-short story (or sometimes not super-short, as you’ll see below). The last time I did this, with a book of 1,000 prompts, I made it through ten, or one percent of the prompts. We’ll see if I do better this time.

I will have a blurb at the bottom of each post explaining the whole thing. It’ll be fun!

Also note, these prompts will be appearing in my newsletter (sign up here).

Prompt 1: The arrival of a letter, email, or package

(NOTE: I actually used this prompt when I first got the book in 2019. The story was about writer’s block. I never finished it. The irony.)

Story based on Prompt 1:

Writer’s Block

Charles Smith-Jones was a boring man. But he aspired to be more. He wanted to be a famous writer. And rich. Rich and famous, as he cleverly thought. Fame alone would be insufficient.

Charles had a problem, though. His mind was an empty vessel, and when the great god Inspiration did deign to fill it, it was with clichés, stereotypes, ideas that, when transformed into words, were terrible, but not terrible enough to provide entertainment value through their sheer awfulness. They were just terrible.

He thought of praying for guidance, for wisdom, for dumb luck, but he was not a religious man and his prayers, mumbled half-heartedly while he made toast in the morning, were like partly-inflated hot air balloons, rising, drifting, crashing.

On this particular day, which was a Saturday and thus a writing day, the doorbell rang. Charles could not remember the last time it had done so. He never had visitors and door-to-door salespeople had long given up on that sort of thing, at least in his neighborhood.

He opened the door to find not a person, but a package. It was wrapped in plain brown paper and bore no return address. It was just big enough to be awkward to carry. He picked it up, anyway, and crabwalked it into the kitchen.

He carefully sliced the paper away with a razor knife, revealing an entirely unremarkable cardboard box. He carefully sliced the tape holding the top of the box together and pulled back the flaps, revealing wads of packing paper inside. He removed them, carefully putting them aside on the kitchen table, thinking he might be able to re-use them later.

With the packing paper removed, Charles found himself looking at a large, smooth piece of wood. He investigated further. It seemed to be a large wooden cube.

He used the knife to cut away the rest of the box, as he did not like the idea of doing more lifting than absolutely necessary. He had some paranoia about putting out his back and being unable to pursue his dream of being a rich and famous writer.

He hoisted the cube onto the kitchen table and tried to puzzle out who would send him such a thing, and why. The effort fizzled after a few minutes, but it made him hungry, so he made more toast, sitting down at the table and eating it while staring at the cube. He turned it to look at all four sides, and it was when he turned to the fourth and final side that he saw written on it the words WRITER’S BLOCK.

Cute. So it had to be a joke. But from whom? Again, no names came to mind.

He held up the knife, still partly smeared with peanut butter, and gently poked at the cube. He steadied the cube with his other hand and pressed harder. The knife dug in. He twisted it and a curl of wood peeled off. He couldn’t remember what the word was for a piece of curled wood.

He finished his toast, then got a larger knife and began working away at the cube, shaving away–that was it! The word was shaving!–more and more, unsure if he would end up with a huge pile of wood shavings on his table, which he would have to then dispose of, or if there might be something inside the block, like a Kinder surprise, which he loved as a kid.

It turned out the latter was the case.

After working away long enough for lunch to draw near, Charles at last came upon the hollowed-out center of the cube, like some kind of hidden treasure vault. What treasure would he find?

It was a typewriter. He could not remember the last time he had seen a typewriter. Maybe on a TV show set in the 1940s.

He pulled it out and took it into the dining room, setting it on the table there. It was blue and might have been a portable unit, as it was smaller than he imagined a typewriter to be. The name identified it as a Smith-Corona.

He cocked his head at it. Maybe it was a joke after all. He held out his right index finger and stabbed it down on the X key, secretly hoping to make the key stick. That was always fun to do as a kid. It did not stick. But doing this made him realize a sheet of paper was tucked into the roller. He cranked the knob to roll it up and read what had been typed on it:

Hello. Follow your dreams! Use this typewriter and you will become famous–I guarantee it!

Charles laughed, though he wasn’t sure this was actually funny.

He pulled up a chair and sat at the typewriter. He snapped the guide back onto the roller and began to type. Before he had finished his first sentence–another facile bit of dross–the typewriter erupted in a huge explosion. The windows of the dining room were blasted out. The fake crystal chandelier that hung above the table and which Charles rather liked, was blown up into the ceiling and shattered. Little was left of the typewriter.

Little was left of Charles. He was quite dead.

He did earn fame of a sort, though, his unremarkable life exposed briefly by the media, who dubbed him a victim of The Typewriter Killer, a moniker so bland and unoriginal that Charles himself might have come up with it.

About this whole prompt business

This is my attempt to do all 5,000 prompts from Bryn Donovan's book 5,000 Writing Prompts.

Remember writing prompts?

close up photo of gray typewriter
Generic photo because I’m pretending I’m writing on Medium or something. Also, accurately reflects how I operated a typewriter. Photo by Leah Kelley on

Yeah, it’s been awhile. I remember vowing to do every prompt in a book filled with a thousand of them. I did ten. Here’s the last post regarding the prompts from just over five years ago: 1,000 creative writing prompts: No more of 1,000

Basically, the prompts weren’t working for me. Maybe that makes me a bad person. Probably. Either way, I gave up after achieving a mere 1% of my stated goal. I feel like I could do better. That I must do better.

So I’m going to start again, and absurdly I am going to use a book of 5,000 writing prompts that I reviewed two years ago. Here is the Goodreads link to the book:

5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More

I feel these prompts will be better-suited to what I want to do, and I’m not necessarily going to try completing all 5,000 of them, though that would probably win me some kind of internet prize.

I am going to use the same parameters as I did back in 2016, so I will repost them here:

My intent is to write ultra-short stories that are no more than a few paragraphs long, working through the prompts in order. When I am done, I will perhaps have a party of some sort.

Sometimes the short stories will be longer and sometimes instead of a story I will answer the questions (most of the prompts are in the form of questions).

I will begin doing this in the next post.

UPDATE, December 15, 2021: Weirdly, it’s just one day later and the very book I’m using has shown up on sale in Book Bub again. It’s like this was meant to be. Or just a complete coincidence.

Note that below is just an image, not a link, since the sale will expire a few days after this post goes up, and I don’t want people crushed by being offered the book for full price.

Book review: 5,000 Writing Prompts

5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More

5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More by Bryn Donovan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I did not read all 5,000 prompts.

But I did read most of them, actually, not just to get the inspiration, but to get an overall feel for how Donovan puts together her lists. Quite often you can see her riffing on a theme or flipping a prompt to generate another (“Write why you like scrambled eggs. Or why you hate scrambled eggs with the fire of a thousand suns.”)

There are a few things Donovan does that elevates this above so many other writing prompt books or websites:

  • Quantity. Yes, sometimes size does matter! The sheer volume of prompts means you’re bound to find some that appeal to you, even if you use her method of randomly picking one.
  • Speaking of randomly picking one, Donovan directly tackles the purpose of the prompts and suggest picking one to write every day for two weeks, to rekindle your interest in writing if it’s faded. This is an entirely sensible plan, but a lot of prompt books don’t address this at all, they just pile on the lists.
  • Speaking of lists, Donovan provides a great deal of variety and even the groupings that might seem marginal to you (for me it would be the poetry prompts) actually offer a lot of good ideas that can be applied to other types of writing.

Donovan offers commentary and background on some of her ideas, especially those that have cultural or historical significance.

Really, this is just a solid all-around collection. I expect to use a bunch of these prompts as I seek to re-ignite my own fiction writing (and if you don’t write fiction, there’s lots of material here for blogs and other forms of non-fiction writing). Recommended.

View all my reviews

I am a big fat liar

I did not do a writing prompt as promised. I am bad. But I did read a bunch more of the prompts, so that’s progress of a sort. Let me amend my original goal to “I will do a prompt in the next few days and then every day after for a total of two weeks.”

That seems reasonable. I think I can do it. I just need to focus. Focus focus focus. Focus. And not be a liar.

Sick writing prompts

Ever gotten sick and wanted to complain endlessly about being sick to everyone around you, but realized that no one wants to hear you complain, you big loser baby and keep back, I’m going on vacation in two days?

Here are a set of writing prompts just for you. Enjoy!

  • There are 500 words for “desert” in Swahili or something. Maybe it’s snow? Whatever. Make up 500 words for all the phlegm caught in your throat.
  • Write a day in the life of a cough drop. Make it a noir thriller.
  • Who doesn’t love lists? Very bad people, that’s who. Write a list of all the fun, crazy things you would be doing if you weren’t so sick no one wants to even call you, let alone get anywhere near you.
  • If you could cure one common virus, which would it be? Write your response as a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Flu is not a four letter word. But if it was, what word would it be? Keep it family friendly.
  • You’re the body guard for the Queen and you have to keep her from catching a cold. Write your adventures in keeping Her Majesty healthy using iambic pentameter.
  • Write a love letter to your favorite head cold. No, that’s dumb. Don’t do that. Write a poem about your worst head cold. Use the words “I”, “wish”, “was” and “dead.”
  • Hospitals are a great place to pick up germs and get sick. Ironic, ain’t it? Write a short story about one person’s attempts to stay healthy while in a hospital. Make it a Broadway musical.

Cloudy with a chance of doom

The chance of doom is minimal, but you never know.

Today the sun has departed and the clouds have rolled in. My mind is similarly clouded as I question the effectiveness of the so-called “extra strength” cough medicine I took this morning that has not particularly stopped me from coughing. Maybe it’s a perspective thing. If I hadn’t taken the cough medicine, I would be on the floor, in endless coughing spasms, my sides sore, feeling worn out from the effort. In that light, the cough medicine is actually working pretty good.

Meanwhile, this flu or whatever it is has reached the annoying stage. I try to remain positive and think how much better I’ll feel when it’s moved along, but right now a nap would be seriously nice. Just curl up on the cold tile floor, right here. I don’t need carpeting. Or a pillow. I’m surprised I’m not napping right now, in this chair, as I type.

Changing gears, I looked through my blog a few days ago semi-randomly. I do this from time to time, usually starting out by searching for something specific, and ending down the rabbit hole that can keep me checking YouTube videos for hours when I totally didn’t mean to do that.

One of the things I re-discovered is how in-depth some of the writing prompts I worked on were. There are complete stories, albeit short ones, on this very blog. I thought to myself, “Neat!” and “I should do more of this.”

So starting tomorrow, when I am hopefully feeling a bit better, I am going to tackle a prompt whenever I have nothing else to write about. Get the ol’ creative juices going again. Maybe this time it will stick. Stranger things–such as the election of Trump–have happened.

This post brought to you by Day 3 of the flu or convincingly flu-like.