Ransom notes, chameleons and mumbled conversation (642 Project)

642 Things to Write About is going very well. I am nineteen things down, six hundred and twenty three to go and the book is already turning out to be the best present I’ve had so far this year. As Po Bronson says in the intro, it’s a lesson in self potential. I’ve been surprising myself with some of the stuff I’ve come up with over the last couple of weeks. There have been slow days, when the next topic on the list just hasn’t thrilled me (“Describe something you wanted badly and then never used”), but most of them have been great fun. Here are a couple of my favourites so far:

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The worst possible moment for a story to be cut off… in Ancient Egypt

One of my favourite childhood memories is of the one and only time I had a perfect day at school. It happened at Higham Park primary school and I must have been around seven or eight years old at the time. We had a substitute teacher whom we had not met before and we spent the entire day studying Ancient Egypt.

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Water beyond (my) imagination

One of my long time armchair interests is astronomy, a subject I’ve kept a foot in for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed the myths and legends associated with the stars, planets and constellations and the rules and logic of astrology; which (even when you don’t believe in them) are rich sources of writing inspiration, and I know both my Roman and Chinese star signs (Scorpio and Tiger). I don’t read New Scientist regularly anymore, but I keep an eye out for interesting new theories and discoveries. The most recent one that has gripped my imagination is the exo-planet Gliese 436 b.

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What can happen in a second? (642 things to write about project)


I’ve received a surprise present from my family this week; a copy of the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto’s new book “642 things to write about”. I’ve been a fan of the Grotto ever since reading about it in Po Bronson’s books and it’s been great to finally see something they’ve produced. As I’m suffering from a bout of writers block on two of my projects at the moment, I’m going to be working through the exercises in it over the next few months and I will be posting some of them here. So, for your consideration, here is day one. Please let me know in the comments what else can happen in one second that I’ve missed.

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The worst possible way to be beaten at your own game

To become really good at anything requires years of effort and dedication. To become a world champion in any type of sport requires you to make it a part of your life. But what happens when, after you have put in the years of training, practise and hard work, someone else comes along – who’s put in half the effort you have – and beats you anyway? And what does it feel like when – just to make things worse – the opponent who defeats you is not a fellow homo sapiens but a computer; which probably didn’t even exist when you started learning the game? Let’s take a look at three world champions who have had this terrible experience and how they have reacted and coped (or not) afterwards.

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