The activity on this observation journal spread was a prompt by Helen Marshall in a course she was running (for which I was one of the tutors).
Left page: Cornbread and sky through culverts.
Right page: The exercise was simply to list ten terrible novel ideas, on the X-meets-Y model.
The trick, of course, is that almost all of them immediately seem like either really excellent ideas, or like thrilling challenges. (Although you’ll see I noted that after further thought some of them returned to being merely appalling.) And occasionally it is illuminating, as with the realisation that “Jurassic Park meets Twelve Angry Men” kind of describes The Firm.
But it’s always a fun conversation piece, and a nice break from earnestness, and loosens a too-tight grip on tasks. It’s also another way of shuffling through recent obsessions, or things you’ve noticed, or books in your line of sight.
It spun off into what I did the following day (but have already posted): Bad Cover Versions.
- As Helen used it in class, the exercise was to do 10 terrible novel ideas. This adapts well, so that whatever you’re doing (or trying to do, or avoiding), you can probably come up with ten terrible versions of it (ten terrible mural designs, ten awful ways to rearrange the living room, etc), or at least ask yourself what are the worst ways I could do this.
- Variant: Play it as a game with friends to see who can come up with the best/worst ideas.
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