On a whim, I purchased something called an “Anywhere Travel Guide”. It’s a set of 75 cards for “discovering the unexpected, wherever your journey leads”. I thought maybe they could be a fun writing exercise while in London, for when I get tired of writing things like “omg London” “I’m never coming home” “I miss my cats”, etc.
I finally got around to opening the box of cards yesterday, and realized that I didn’t just buy a box of writing prompts – I bought a Manic Pixie Dream Girl Starter Kit.
Bring a book you love out on a walk. Leave sentences from the book wherever you go.
Someone thought this sounded all romantic and mysterious, but to me it’s just a logistical nightmare. Okay, here’s my favourite book. Now what? Do I also bring an xacto knife to cut passages out of the pages to leave around? Not only am I destroying a book, but I’m also littering. I could copy the sentences out by hand, but now I need to bring a notebook and pen and I’m still littering. And what happens if your favourite book isn’t full of romantic or vaguely inspirational passages? What if you have truly terrible taste in books?
“I don’t think I can. I’ve told you, on the one hand, the hunger — the thirst — that, deplorable creature that I am, I feel for you. And I think you can understand that, to an extent. Though” — he half-smiled — “as you are not addicted to any illegal substances, you probably can’t empathize completely.
“But…” His fingers touched my lips lightly, making me shiver again. “There are other hungers. Hungers I don’t even understand, that are foreign to me.”
Or worse still,
Jamie knows Adam always gets nervous before they head out to sea; he can tell by the way the man walks, the slight tremor in his hands, the hitch in his breath. It’s not that Adam is afraid of the ocean, the man just desperately does not want to get sick. He wants to participate, to feel the satisfaction of seeing one of his builds not screw up for once. He wants to cheer alongside Jamie as the rig they worked on for months performs just as it’s supposed to, to hug the man when it’s over, to hear the whispered words of praise the other man wouldn’t be caught dead saying to anyone else.
It’s a cute idea – sort of – but if you stop to actually think about everything involved, it becomes laughably convoluted and just plain rude. Don’t deface books. Don’t litter! And don’t ever, ever make me look up Mythbusters slash to prove a point EVER AGAIN.
Walk through the city while listening to music that you love. Let the words of the songs tell you stories about things that you pass by.
Makin’ my way downtown, walking fast, faces pass, and I’m homebound ..
Whisper a secret into the wind. Follow it as it flies away.
What. No. Why. Stop this at once.
Ask someone where to find something really strange.
Wanna see a dead body?
Collect voices. Dark, light, funny, sweet, whispering, slow, loud, soft. Imagine them as a choir.
STAND STILL I’m trying to collect your voice now where did I put my stabbing knife?
Choose a person on the street. Make this person your guide. Follow him/her for as long as possible.
Call home with your one phone call. Ask them to sell mother’s prized horse figurine collection to make your bail. Imagine your happy place during the cavity search.
Look behind you, look above you, look beneath you. These are your surroundings.
This is a word. People breathe oxygen. Cars go fast.
Run four steps, walk slowly for five steps, run ten steps, and turn around a corner. Stop suddenly and stand completely still.
When Joseph Gordon-Levitt catches up to you and asks what you’re doing, tell him you’re following the secret you whispered into the wind. Bask in his adoration as he openly admires your free spirit. Smile and count the polka-dots on your vintage lace chemise as he realizes you are from two different worlds and could never make it work. Skip away, promising to plant kisses in the dirt for him every spring on that hill you climbed together on the day you found out you were terminal.
Start running. Run for two blocks. Can you smell something?
You may want to take a shower.
Hide in different places throughout the day – under a chair, behind a wall, between some trees.
Get stuck. Die slowly when no one comes looking for you. Spend your final minutes on this mortal plane cursing the whimsy that led you to be trapped under this chair behind a wall between some trees.
The entire deck of cards is like this. There are more cards suggesting you leave things places, other asking you to pick things up off the street and mail them to someone, and a lot of talking to strangers. The entire deck isn’t completely useless – there are several things that might be legitimately fun to try, like picking a random restaurant and ordering the 3rd and 12th things off the menu or walking into any place and asking someone where their favourite place in the city is – but the vast majority of the prompts are complete 500 Days of Summer Paper Towns Breakfast at Tiffany’s Virgin Suicides Garden State MPDG bullshit. This isn’t to say that I am beyond doing random-ass things – quite the contrary – but I am not some slip of a caricature of a girl. I am a fierce, independent, anxiety-riddled weirdo. My quirks are not for you!
If you need me, I’ll be dancing with my cat in the centre of Times Square while wearing a dress made of tomorrow’s newspaper and dead roses.