We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your…
We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and styles.
To participate, read the challenge instructions and write at least one post in response. Tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post to generate a pingback. Make sure your post has been specifically published in response to this challenge. We might just highlight some of our favorites on Freshly Pressed on Fridays, or in our monthly newsletter.
As a teenager, my first job was in a food court on the Ocean City, New Jersey boardwalk. The mornings were slow and spent prepping for the inevitable lunch rush. During those quiet moments, I often found myself watching our customers. The married couple who were clearly fighting and sitting at separate tables. The family with the sullen teenager sulking over a slice of pizza. The joyful students just visiting for a day to work on their tans. People watching, even when on the job, is excellent fodder for writing.
A Literary Side Dish
During my breaks, I’d often grab one of the notebooks I took orders on and would scribble down a few words. Years later, I came across the poet Frank O’Hara and his Lunch Poems. In 1959, O’Hara wrote in Adieu to Norman, Bonjour to Joan and Jean-Paul:
It is 12:10 in New York and I am wondering
if I will finish this in time to meet Norman for lunch
ah lunch! I think I am going crazy
what with my terrible hangover and the weekend coming up
In just a few lines, O’Hara captures the nervousness and frenzy of daily life in New York City, balancing social plans and the desire to catch a break over a meal with friends. Over the course of roughly 10 years, from 1953 to 1964, O’Hara scribbled down these daily observations in Lunch Poems. Most of his pieces were about New York City, his life and friends, pop cultural references of the time, and many of these poems were written during his lunch hour. It’s been said that O’Hara arguably took a more casual and informal approach to the fine craft of writing, writing down his observational pieces when the mood struck him.
There’s an element of freedom that comes with eschewing expectations and letting the words come to you when you have a free moment, whether that be five or 50 minutes of your own, personal time. A snippet of a paragraph here, a short poem there, until the work builds upon itself and you have a brief remembrance of the moment in time you etched down in your own words.
Take a Bite Out of This Week’s Challenge
For this week’s writing challenge, take a cue from O’Hara and write a short(er) post during your lunch hour. During this limited period of time, take a look at your surroundings and document what you see.
- Are your coworkers dancing around the office, rushing to and fro with purpose?
- Are you waiting in line for your food, when the family in front of you offers some endearing gesture to their little ones?
- Or are you at home with your own children, and can’t help but notice the way the afternoon light glimmers on your son or daughter’s face while eating their lunch?
If you’re feeling ambitious, aim to write additional posts during your break, up to every day if you’re on a roll. For our champion lunch-time writers who post every day this week, we’d love to hear your reflections on the experience.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on your lunch break either. Try jotting down your momentary observations just before bed, while on the train home from work, or during any of those lost hours where we stare off into space instead of centering ourselves and reflecting on what’s going on around us.