Ciao, my writer darlings! Thank you for joining me inside this picturesque '50s diner, which is a popular spot along I-90. This bustling slice of American nostalgia will serve as the backdrop for this career-making writing workshop. For the next hour, we will ideate, we will hypothesize, we will inspire each other and ourselves. But, we will not write a single word.

Yes, that is right. We will not write. That is why, in signing up for this workshop, you agreed to relinquish all connections to distracting devices in exchange for an immersive investigation into your writing joie de vivre. To pledge your commitment to this process, please drop any cellular devices, electronic tablets, and/or smartwatches into my Trader Joe’s grocery bag.

Ahh, can you feel a change in the air? No, I don’t mean the patron in the next booth shouting for more pancake syrup. Tune him out as you tune into your internal writer’s voice. This part of you gestates, nourishes, and births every story premise. If you listen to it closely enough, you will discover a wealth of brilliance.

It’s whispering now, “Give in to this writing workshop not by writing, but by taking turns asking for more condiments, plates, and silverware as I continually stash them in my purse.”

I can tell that your pained expressions are not from having just witnessed a busboy drop an entire tray of sausage gravy on a customer’s lap, but rather from a release of any inner demons that prevent your best work. I can sense that you all will write the next “Great American Novel” and to do that, you must begin by using this sausage gravy diversion to swipe cash left on any empty tables.

A writer’s duty is to observe their surroundings, so as to be aware of their environment from which the dams of inspiration might burst forth at any moment. Now, count and describe everyone—and their belongings—starting with who you think is the easiest target. Perhaps one of these strangers will sire your protagonist. We must gather any personal items of value that can inform us further about their character. Now, go forth and return once the flames of writer’s block are quenched by a pawnable keepsake.

Excellent, you all are clearly committed to this workshop. But, shall we see who is the most committed? Earlier, I took stock of the cash in the register to create a writing exercise that does not involve any writing, but rather incites action that will propel your motivation to write something soon, or maybe in a period of thirty years to life.

Now, you are all aware of Chekhov’s gun theory, correct? Perfect. I find that using play acting as a brainstorming technique is most effective. Imagine you are in the final act of a Chekhov play as I place this very real weapon on the table. Whoever is the first to gather every dollar from the cash register shall prove their utmost commitment to the craft of writing.

What’s more, if anyone is able to secure the wallets of every guest in this diner, then I will write them a letter of recommendation to either the MFA program or penitentiary of their choosing.

Also, if anyone can bust open the ATM outside, they will receive a partial scholarship to my next workshop. It’ll be held up in a historic bank. There, I guarantee you’ll be able to pry open the vaults of your imagination to unlock your most profitable story.

Put on these ski masks that eruditely serve as an effective and anonymous “thinking cap.” Go forth, my scribes, and demand that everyone pay attention to your intellect, creativity, and threats of violence. I guarantee you will soon have a rapt audience, ready to support your endeavors. They’ll be clamoring to get on the ground and listen to your finest prose!