Saturday Promptitude


How Webster's defines it:  The quality or habit of being prompt, promptness.

How I define it: The habit of using prompts to inspire your writing.

Prompts.  Quit your sneering right now.  Yes, I know that you have a love-hate relationship with them.  I do, too.  Yes, I also know that sometimes writing to prompts leads you far astray from your current writing projects.  Same thing happens here.  And yes, I understand that your worst nightmare is sitting in a writing workshop, being told to write to a prompt, and then being called on to read what you wrote.  Oh dear lord, somebody wake me up, please.  Make the nightmare stop. No, I promise you: NO READING ALOUD HERE. Journal_80101_l

But besides all those bad things I know about prompts, I also know this:

When all else fails, prompts can get you writing again faster than anything else I know. 


Let's face it, what prompts are to writing, the law of attraction is to life: mocked and scorned but very useful.  C'mon, we know they work and we use them all the time, but we just don't want to admit it.  Who wants to be the dork that admits they watched The Secret five times?  Or the one who confesses she writes to a prompt in her journal every morning?  Not me.

But put all that malarkey aside and grab your pen and paper, cuz we-all are going to write.  Right here, right now.  And every Saturday to come.  Because today is the beginning of a regular weekly feature called, you guessed it, Promptitude.

Here are the guidelines (please note, I did not use the word rules, because I don't believe in them):

1. Set timer for an agreed-upon-with-yourself time.

2.  Write.  And by this I mean write write, okay?  Don't stop to ponder or stare off into space or all of those things we do when we pretend we are writing but really we're wondering if Lindsay Lohan is going to jail or not.  Move that damn pen across the paper and keep it going.  Do. Not. Stop.

And now, here are two rules more guidelines that are of vital importance:

3. Don't ponder the prompt.  If I stop to think about the prompt, what I think it means, whether I like it or not, if I should, perhaps choose another one, then the magic is already gone.  So don't do it.  Take the damn prompt already and write.  Its just a way in.

4. Use the prompt with your current project.  Here's the easiest way to do it:   Hold a character or situation from your book or story in your head for a few deep breaths, then start writing.  I know, too simple.  But it really works, I swear it.  And this is my favorite thing to use prompts for, which is to drive myself to a deeper understanding of what I'm working on.

So, are you ready?  Get your timer and your pen and paper and go to it.  Don't think about it, just do it.  Here's the prompt:

When the first snowflake fell, she ran outside naked.

What are you staring at me for?  Go write!

And even though I swore I wouldn't call on you, if you feel so inclined–only if you are feeling it–post your first 100 or so words in the comments.  Or post a comment on your own feelings about prompts.  But I do love it when you comment, so please do.

, , , ,

15 Responses to Saturday Promptitude

  1. Trisha 02/27/2011 at 01:47 #

    I’m writing to a prompt every week this year! They’re not my main projects, or my novels, but short stories. And sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to write, and it takes me most of the week to start on my story. But so far I’ve come up with at least 1000 words each week, and I’m loving it! πŸ˜€

    Some prompts are really boring, though – so that’s where the ‘hate’ part comes in for me. πŸ˜‰

  2. Jeanne Kraus 02/27/2011 at 05:29 #

    Love this entry. Promptitude. Also will check out the writing yourself a mantra. I write every day, have no problem with “what to write” just having the problem of multiple distractions, such as Facebook, blog, games of Scrabble and etc. etc. So your posts will be very gratefully read. And used.

  3. Charlotte Dixon 02/27/2011 at 07:33 #

    Trisha, And that is exactly why prompts work! Getting 1000 words in a week is fantastic! What makes a boring prompt?

    Jeanne, I’m so glad you like the word, I fell in love with it. And also pleased that my posts are useful to you. I fight those distractions constantly, too, the latest is Spider Solitaire. After I switched to a Mac I didn’t have it on my computer, which was great. Then I discovered I could play it online, which is not so great.

  4. Regina 02/27/2011 at 10:46 #

    I use a lot of writing prompts when I am feeling stuck within a project and they do help me work through my issues. I love them.

  5. Charlotte,
    I love this idea, but I’m not writing fiction (these days anyway). How can I use a prompt for my non-fiction writing? Help!

    Jeanne I completely understand about the distractions of Facebook etc., when writing. I’m limiting myself to 15 minute increments no more than 4x per day. I’ve also started following Charlotte’s advice for NOT going online until after I’ve done some writing first. I think I’ll call it Charlotte’s Eat, Pray, Write rule! (this sounds so much better than: Breakfast, Meditate, Write doesn’t it?)

  6. Charlotte Dixon 02/27/2011 at 14:22 #

    Regina, I’m glad that prompts are helpful to you and that prompts are getting some full-on love from you!

    Oh, Angela, you made me laugh out loud! I love the Eat, Pray, Write rule! It is awesome. And it does make a difference when you don’t go online first thing, doesn’t it? As for your question about how to use prompts for non-fiction writing, I do that all the time. Here’s a couple suggestions.

    1. If you already have something written, use a sentence from that as your prompt.
    2. Use the topic as a prompt. So, if you were writing a blog post, you might be writing about intuition. Read the word over and over again until your hand either goes somewhere else or you force it to because you’re ready to kill yourself.
    3. Use a prompt along the lines of: “Here’s everything I know about intuition.” Or, “If I were going to write about intuition, here’s what I’d write.” Sounds so simplistic as to be ridiculous, but it really helps. Hmmm…maybe I better turn this into a blog post for next Saturday’s Promptitude! Thanks for asking the question.

  7. Alison Miller 02/27/2011 at 16:01 #

    Oh this is great – just write. I have a hate-love relationship with prompts, but am amazed when I actually take the challenge. Great post! Makes me want to respond to a prompt every day. :)

  8. Lauri 02/27/2011 at 19:02 #

    I actually like prompts. I feel like it’s doing scales, warming up before real writing. I do like prompts that I can apply to my WIP, like you said.

  9. Charlotte Dixon 02/27/2011 at 21:30 #

    Alison, it does my heart so much good to here that this post has inspired you to write. And, in my informal and anecdotal poll-taking, I think those of use who have a love-hate relationship with prompts are in the lead.

    Lauri, exactly. That’s why the prompt-haters among us need to turn the feelings around to love, because they are so useful!

  10. Belinda 02/28/2011 at 13:27 #

    I use prompts to challenge myself. It can be oh so painful when my head just isn’t screwed on properly but they can also be fun when the words flow. Ah, just like writing, no?

    I also like the challenge of coming up with a story in so many words. It’s great for those who tend to be verbose.

  11. Charlotte Dixon 02/28/2011 at 14:21 #

    Yeah, exactly like writing! And I suspect that is why many people don’t like prompts, because they can be challenging. Maybe people don’t like them because of the places the prompts take them.

  12. Dear Charlotte,
    You are a word-smithing genius!

    I do leave blog posts unfinished in order to help prompt me the next day.

    I will try saying “intuition, intuition, intuition,” next time.

    I love the last tip. It is simple but sounds as if it’s going to be very effective!

    Thank you!

  13. Charlotte Dixon 03/01/2011 at 08:15 #

    Oh, Angela, thank you for that great compliment! And please do let me know how these tips work out for you.


  1. Promptitude: Photo Edition | Charlotte Rains Dixon - 11/03/2015

    […] Saturday Prompitude (the one that started it all) […]

  2. Chunking It Down | Charlotte Rains Dixon - 11/03/2015

    […] The Beauty of Prompts […]

Leave a Reply