Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)
TITLE: A Literal Writer Jumps Out of the Box
By Gerald Shuler
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Except for this assignment. Jason looked at his assignment sheet again, as though it would be somehow different from the last dozen looks. “Jason,” the memo said. “Frank is on vacation or he would have gotten this one. We need a light, out-of-the-box piece that centers on the words ‘Empty’ and ‘Full’. Reach deep, Jason. I know it isn’t your style, but we promised it to a good advertiser.”
For the last two hours the only thing Jason had been able to come up with was a list of literal uses of the words. Dictionary definitions were of no help. They were literal and left no room for climbing out of the box. Oh, how he envied writers who could instantly take this assignment and write a story, full of deep meaning and light laughter, about a talking mouse with an empty nest. That writer would have the mouse discussing his mixed emotions with a compassionate rose bush who has come to grips with the fact that she couldn’t always be full of roses. The two, mouse and rose bush, would conclude some life changing truth that would carry the reader into waves of inspired revelation that would be remembered for years because of the cute way it had been written.
Yes, others had no trouble writing like that, but he was still stuck in literal mode. The list of literal topic interpretations seemed to be flashing in his mind even without looking at them on his laptop. One by one, he reviewed them.
1. Is the glass half empty or half full?
This would never work for two reasons. First, it’s the first thing anyone would have thought about and second, the statement is false. The glass isn’t half empty any more than it is half full. It is ALWAYS full. It would have liquid in the bottom and air in the top, but it is still, technically, full.
2. A genius, full of knowledge and an idiot, totally empty of knowledge.
Jason’s literal thinking really blasted him on this one. What about the Idiot-Savants, who do incredible things with their minds in only one area... but are true idiots in every other of life’s endeavors?
3. Marriage vows, full of loving promises, becomes a Divorce Decree, empty of all but bitter lies.
Jason knew that one hit too close to home. No story potential there.
4. A school yard, full of laughing children during the day; abandoned and lonely at night.
So what? He would need details about the school’s average attendance and the names of a few of the kids that play there. .. wouldn’t he?
The list went on and on. Jason reviewed other ideas: a full orphanage that could be empty if only more families cared; the space program, with astronauts full of purpose going bravely into the emptiness of space; the peach trees in his back yard, so empty only weeks before but now full of sweet, luscious fruit. The list of literal things he could write about seemed unending. If he could write in his own style, Jason would have no trouble coming up with an incredible story for the assignment, but that one horrible phrase kept glaring at him: “Out-of-the-box”.
Perhaps he would just have to call his editor and back out of this one. Jason bowed his head and, as always, asked the Lord for help with this wretched writer’s block. Once finished, he opened his eyes and looked at his computer screen. He was in awe of what he saw. Each and every item in his list seemed to glow with a heavenly aura. Each item, rejected for being too literal before, now exploded in his imagination. He suddenly realized how full of ideas he had been all along. All he really needed to do now was settle back to his keyboard and write. But first... oh, no!
He had to choose just one wonderful idea.
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