Touch Guess Think Win

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

There’s a great scene in The Lobster, the wonderful 2015 film by Yorgos Lanthimos, in which the two main characters, played by Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, are sitting around dismally in a forest, trying to think of something to pass the time. They are both short-sighted, and Weisz asks Farrell, “Would you like to play another round of Touch, Guess, Think, Win?”

Imagine: guessing before you think. And for winning to be assured by the very name of the game. (To be fair, nothing much else is assured for the characters in this darkest of dark dystopian comedies, so it’s understandable that they’d go for a certain victory in their leisure time.)

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been told, at some point in your life, that you are overthinking something. I know I have, and though I don’t really find it helpful to be told to stop, I do recognize the tendency. 

So let’s try guessing before thinking. And what I basically mean by that is, try choosing where to submit before you even write the submission. 


For the second week of this month on publishing your work, let’s play a writing/revising/submitting/publishing version of Touch, Guess, Think, Win:

Touch refers to scanning this amazing Entropy list of publications that I shared with you last week. Not poring over–just glancing through, seeing what pops out, maybe Ctrl-F’ing a genre that you work in. 

Guess refers to choosing a publication based on reading the submission guidelines and a few pieces they’ve published. 

Think is the writing and revising. That’s right — guess (choose where to submit) before you even write the piece. 

Win is submitting and getting published.*

*actual results may vary

I did a test run (without actually writing, yet), and it went like this:

Touch: I searched (using Control F) for flash, with an eye toward flash nonfiction. I glanced at several sets of submissions guidelines to find something I could get my head around.

Guess: After a few dead ends, I found a journal called Off Assignment, and saw that they are looking for a very specific thing right now: Letters to a Stranger, in which the piece is addressed to “an unshakeable stranger you’ve met along the way, whether traveling across the world, the country, or down the street.” Some examples are linked below the guidelines, including a piece addressed to a magician in Nicaragua who never did any tricks by Leslie Jamison. Also, they pay $100, which never hurts, and don’t charge a submission fee. So, I *guess* I’ll write a letter to a stranger. 

Think: I *think* I’ll write to a girl I saw on the subway once. I was reading The Collected Amy Hempel, and there was a line in the book that went something like, “Whenever you see a beautiful woman, you know some man is sick of her shit,” and when I read that line I looked right up to scan the train for a beautiful woman so that I could comprehend the line and test it out in my mind. I saw a girl about my age who was very pretty, and I admit I found it hard to imagine that some man was sick of her shit. Or if he was, he had no right to be. And then I saw that the beautiful woman was also reading The Collected Amy Hempel

Win: Maybe I really will write this letter (I do think about the girl often), and maybe it will get accepted!

Now it’s your turn! Play a round of Touch, Guess, Think, Win, publication edition. Have fun with it. Keep it short-sighted. It could be an easy win, something to lighten the path. 

Oh, and here’s the other trick to the game: once you write the thing, you can submit it other places, too.