This morning, while trying to come up with an Academy Award-related writing prompt, I went to my bookshelf in search of Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer and instead found Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, a book written by the great American film director David Lynch. CtBF, which I recommend to anyone interested in increasing their capacity to catch creative ideas and which immediately hooked me again (I’ve read it twice to date), contains 83 chapters that vary in length from a single sentence to three (very short) pages. One chapter, entitled “Texture,” reads, in its entirety, as follows:
I don’t necessarily love rotting bodies, but there’s a texture to a rotting body that is unbelievable. Have you ever seen a little rotted animal? I love looking at those things, just as much as I like to look at a close-up of some tree bark, or a small bug, or a cup of coffee, or a piece of pie. You get in close and the textures are wonderful.
My first thought after reading this today was that the following would make for an excellent writing prompt: Describe, in as much detail as possible, and from as close range as possible, a rotting body, a little rotted animal, some tree bark, a small bug, a cup of coffee, or a piece of pie.
But then I thought, That’s too easy. Too simple. Not all that interesting. And soon I thought of this prompt: Write about something you or a character has an affinity for inspecting at very close range (for example: a rotting body, a little rotted animal, some tree bark, a small bug, a cup of coffee, or a piece of pie).
But again something told me, It doesn’t feel right. Not good enough. Not Lynchian enough. And that’s when this prompt hit me between the eyes, a prompt which I now invite you to use and which I’m itching to use as well: Choose two of the following items: a rotting body, a little rotted animal, some tree bark, a small bug, a cup of coffee, or a piece of pie. Then, after you’ve chosen, write a conversation between the two which takes place in a diner.
And in case you’re wondering why a diner, a diner happens to be David Lynch’s favorite place to imagine. Of the establishment, Lynch writes in CtBF (in a chapter entitled “Bob’s Big Boy”):
There’s safety in thinking in a diner. You can have your coffee or milk shake, and you can go off into strange dark areas, and always come back to the safety of the diner.