Monday, November 16, 2009

Writing Prompts on Special Today. Help Yourself.

Writing prompts – what do you think of them? Useful? A helpful way to stretch the writing muscle and bust through a writing obstruction (notice how I didn't say block?). Fun diversion? Annoying distraction? All of the above?

The thing I like about a writing prompt is that I can interpret it any darn way I want to, depending on my mood, interests, and levels of ambition or curiosity that day. For the past seven weeks, I've been sending out a daily writing prompt to those enrolled in two of my writing classes. Except for an occasional mini-assignment based on one prompt per week, for the most part, they are free to ignore the prompt or to use it, to post the results or not, to email it to me or to keep it to themselves.

It's been great fun to see in how many different ways the same prompt can be interpreted and where some of the prompts have taken the writing. The same prompts also seem to work equally well for nonfiction and fiction writers.

Of course any writer can provide their own prompts, a dozen or more a day, by simply looking out the window, in a magazine, across the room. But let's face it, we usually never get around to it for ourselves. So, here is a sampling of those I've used lately. Help yourself.

Waking up.
What we leave behind, what we keep.
Arriving late to the party.
The calendar.
The big game.
A letter to my younger self.
Food for thoughts.
Tick tock.
The way life should be.
Change of heart.
Bank on it.

Another interesting, counterintuitive thing I've noticed. While cloying clich├ęs and tired, overused expressions are verboten in good prose, sometimes that same old worn-out phrase makes a pretty terrific writing prompt. Yep, wonders never cease to amaze me.

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