• Meg Gaertner


There's a writing group in Minneapolis that gathers each Saturday to do timed prompts, drawn from a hat (or bowl, I don't remember). As someone who savors the luxury of having an entire afternoon free for writing whatever I want, I found this exercise challenging for two reasons:

1. I couldn't choose my own topic, but had to make my words match the prompt.

2. I only had 2-5 minutes to write.

Let's be clear: two minutes is NO TIME AT ALL. It took a while for me to get over the nerves and pressures of my thoughts--I've got to be writing, shit, time is running out, oh no, where are the words?!--and to get out of my own way.

But I did, and I thought I'd share my hastily scribbled responses to a few of the writing prompts.

(3 minutes—Give it up)

“Give it up,” says shame, dressed in her heels and fancy dress, hair professionally styled and makeup artfully done.

“Give it up,” she says, with her perfect teeth and smooth, flawless skin, radiant smile that has known no hardship.

She is the self I’ve been told I should be, the self I see reflected at me in magazine ads, TV commercials. She is the self I will never be.

And I’m okay with that, because my life is much more interesting than hers will ever be.

She’ll never know it though, caught as she is by her own (im)perfection.

(2 minutes—I couldn’t get over it)

I couldn’t get over, still haven’t gotten over, might never get over, the alien landing in my cereal bowl that misty morning three Aprils ago. I heard the splash, milk and Cheerios spilling out onto the patio table, and there it was—gray-green and slimey, bewildering as it looked up at me from four tentacle eyes waving safely from above the milk’s surface. Weird.

(3 minutes)

What if your phone copied all of your mannerisms: your tone of voice, speech patterns, word choice, emotions invoked, all of the phrases texted, emoticons and slang?

What if your phone sent all of this data—your pictures and videos, memos and calendar plans—to a remote location off in Siberia, to be collected, harnessed, an identity bestowed upon the clones being born and replicated daily, so that you really do have a doppelganger out there?

You really are 100% out there.

Does that thought make you smile?

Would the world be better for having another you?

(2 minutes)

The Sahara sun burned and scarred my salty, sweaty skin. When the plane had crash-landed in the sand dunes three days ago, my fiancé and I had emerged blinking and squinting, the sole survivors of the wreck. Ex-fiancé—the engagement didn’t survive either.

(5 minutes—What is life in hell like?)

The boy, 7th grade and pimply, jeers in her face with a wide grin, revealing braces covered with neon blue rubber bands flecked with spit and the remains of the mystery meat the cafeteria used for Taco Tuesdays. His friends, jostling each other behind his back, egging him on, pretend not to also be staring out of the corners of their eyes at her friends, standing behind her, examining their painted fingernails with all of the blasé coolness they can muster.

“Wanna go dance with me?” the boys asks in Neanderthal tones.

“Oh god,” she thinks. “I’m in hell.”

(3 minutes)

“I can show you the world,” Aladdin sang out on his threadbare carpet.

Fuck that, thought Jasmine. You just want to marry me and keep me in this palace and show me off to your street-urchin friends to show them how far you’ve come.

“No, thanks.”

She pushed him off and commandeered the carpet.

A picture that has nothing to do with the rest of the blog.

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