Writing Assignment: Message In A Bottle

by Randy Murray on February 4, 2011

One of the most difficult things for a writer is to think about is that someone, somewhere, might be reading their work. The young writer (not necessarily in chronological age, but in writing years) often fears publication and possible rejection. The mature writer understands that rejection and criticism is part of the landscape and no longer worries about it. But it’s difficult to cross that minefield and it can be very painful, at least initially.

I learned this as a young playwright. I didn’t have to worry about a single reader, but an auditorium filled with hundreds of audience members.  Although the performances went very well, the experience was very painful, because I, as the author, was standing at the back, seeing and hearing them react in real time to my writing. But that experience helped to burn the fear away. You survive. You may get some scars, but you publish and you continue publishing and get back to the business of writing.

Some people never let another person read their writing. That’s a choice. But there are ways to publish, to release your work into the world, and to do it in a way that is free of fear. One way is the message in a bottle.

Imagine yourself on an island (it doesn’t have to be deserted). Write what you want, stuff it in a bottle, pound in the cork, and toss it in the ocean. Release it. Let it go. You’ll never know if anyone will read it, and if someone does, you’ll never hear from him or her, know what he or she thinks. Do that enough and you’ll come to understand that people are reading your work, somewhere, thinking what they will, and it has NOTHING to do with your work. You’re now free to publish.

You don’t need to litter the ocean with bottles. The internet itself is a vast ocean. Open up a free blog and write on it with a pseudonym or anonymously. Find places to post your work and not your name. Look for bottles and fill them with messages, and then, forget about them.

For today’s assignment, write a message that is intended for no one in particular, and that tells your unknown reader a bit about where you are at the moment, your island.  You can post it here in the comments, or drop it somewhere else in this sea of internet sites.

Here’s my example:


I’ve released this message into the waves, not with the hope of rescue or even finding a correspondent or reader. I’m simply a writer and this is what I do.

Today, I’m writing in my office. The light is good from my window and it’s comfortable here at my desk to sit and write. It’s quiet in the house with few distractions, other than the hum of the fish tank and the occasional interruption from a needy cat. My desk is uncrowded, my inbox is mostly empty, and it’s a fine place to think, read, and write.

My reading chair, the red leather one by the bookcase, hasn’t gotten much use lately and the stack of books on the floor beside it is beginning to fall into disordered word-slides. And the disassembled mess of hardware that used to be a computer is spread over the center of the floor. My youngest daughter thought it might have some interesting parts for an art project, but now she’s moved on and forgets, nightly, to haul it all away.

I hope you have a similar place, your island, where you can sit and think when you need to, to do good work when you can, and to relax and retreat when you must. That’s what I have here and I’m pleased to have it. I protect it from intruders and the occasional pirate. So I state once again, I’m not looking for rescue or removal. I’m just letting you know that all is well, I am fine, and more messages are to follow.


Your humble island writer

You may leave your completed assignment in the comments section below.

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