1. Write a self-portraiture to remind yourself, after six months of doomscrolling, that you still possess an unmediated, material form.
2. After Annie Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels,” write about the unhinged intimacy you shared this summer with your foster animal. How did you very calmly go wild?
3. After Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting,” write about the last time you left your house for some nominal reason, how transcendent and unnerving it felt to encounter Other Humans doing Other Human Things.
4. Write a missive from the void. Use the second person.
5. Write a profile on someone you are obsessed with but have no access to. Indulge your quar-crush — it’s journalism!
6. Reconstruct a memory of a time when you attended a party with one hundred of your closest friends. Render the scene using rich sensory detail. What were people wearing? Who did you share a cigarette with? When you start to feel wistful, sit with the words you’ve committed to the page. Read them aloud. Embrace them. They are your closest friends now.
7. Write an oral history featuring the beleaguered cries of students and teachers from all Zoom classrooms everywhere. Polyphony!
8. Write a hermit crab essay in the form of a social contract. Note where the form bends. Where it breaks.
9. Write a braided essay on the global pandemic, Black Lives Matter, climate change, neoliberalism, the folly of American exceptionalism, the failure of American institutions, and what probably feels most harrowing, despite it all, perhaps because of it all, your most recent breakup.
10. After Joan Didion’s “In Bed,” write about the three, four, sometimes five times a day you crawl under the covers and lie there, thinking about all the loss this country has endured. Lean into the grief until it is all you remember, so that when a moment beyond the present finally arrives, it not only brings reprieve, but transformation — the potential for something truly changed. End the piece by counting your blessings.
11. After Sei Shonagan, write about your hateful things. No page limit.