1 The constraints: 1) No more than
one hour. 2) No more than 20 lines.
The result ? Genius or Not.
In 1980, Harry Mathews attempted to overcome writer’s block by committing to producing “twenty lines a day, genius or not” for a period of one year, following an exhortation that Stendhal once made to himself. In 2010 a group of writers, connected only by their all having been previously published in the journal Succour (which ran for ten issues from 2004 to 2009), decided to introduce a similar exercise to their writing practice. Each writer committed to commence at least one writing session per month with a period of one hour in which they would write a text of not more than twenty lines (poetry) or five hundred words (prose), the content of which would not be preconceived in anyway.

The results are texts which are somewhere between notes and finished works, each one like a piece of flypaper which has caught whatever happened to be flitting through the writer’s mind at the hour of its composition. Once a text has been written, the author posts it on Genius or Not. The title of each text is the date of its composition, and each is given up to five tags by its writer relating to its subject matter. There are therefore various ways of reading the texts on Genius or Not, for example: chronologically as a whole; chronologically by specific writer; transversally via the system of tags.

Thanks are due to Harry Mathews for inspiring this project. The results of his own genius or not project are collected in his book Twenty Lines a Day, available here.