Last week I encouraged my fiction writers to read and write some list poems--in particular, about the JCC. because a description of the bulletin board there (everything is superlative! order your cinnamon babka! Talk to Schmuel at the cafe! I'm paraphrasing, sorry, Cindy) sounded just like a list poem, and because we were discussing how to make details tell as much story as the more straightforward activity of plot.
We're always told to write what we know, but sometimes it's what we don't know that holds the fat fruit of fascination around the seed. The web is a wonder for finding out what you don't already know--and sometimes digging deeper is as easy as reading a book, taking a continuing education class in auto mechanics or hair design, taking a walk around the neighborhood with a guide to trees.
Maybe as we head into the darkness of winter, the light we need is learning something new. Maybe that's what we should write about.
Here's your topic:
Make a list of what you don't know. Take fifteen minutes to do this.
Then take your list and pick one thing to learn, or to invent. Say you wrote, "I don't know about my grandparents' sex lives." You may not want to research that--you may want to use fiction to make it all up--changing names to protect the innocent, or at least to keep those holiday cards a comin'.