Charlotte Rains Dixon  

On Writing Prompts

I’ve been wanting to write a post about writing prompts for awhile now.  Tonight while farting around on the internet, I found a contest based on a prompt (this is for women only, sorry guys).  You can find it here.

Truth is, its kind of dorky.  But then, prompts are kinda dorky, don’t you think?

Prompts are dorky because they too often reek of navel gazing, of the worst kind of journal writing.  Now, I write in my journal every morning, so I can be called an avid journaler.  But I am a practical journal writer–figuring out what I need to do for the day, resolving emotional issues.  And so I tend to get uncomfortable when I read books on journaling that get a little too precious about various journaling techniques.

So I guess its easy to see why I think prompts are dorky, because prompts and precious journaling go hand in hand.  And yet, I sometimes find prompts useful. 

I once belonged to a group of women writers who met every other week on Friday morning.  We took turns bringing prompts.  We’d sit around the table with a timer set for 20 minutes and write like mad.  I never did use any of those freewrites for stories, but there’s something glorious about spending a morning writing like a mad woman.

And prompts are really good for igniting mad writing.

Prompts are useful for your writing because they can lead you into the heart of your psyche, which is the heart of all story.  Let prompts teach you to put yourself on the page over and over again until a story emerges.  The more you use prompts to write and shape your life and your ideas into stories the more it will come automatically to you and you’ll no longer need the prompts.

Other ways prompts are useful:

  • When you are blocked.  Take a prompt, any prompt, and write for 20 minutes.  It helps.  Really it does.  (I know–when I’m blocked I tend to want to wallow in it–stare at the computer and be really, really depressed.  I usually am not in the mood to take a stupid, dorky prompt and write.  But it always helps when I finally make myself do it.)
  • When you need to find a way into your story.  Take a line from your story or novel.  Or write the character’s name and combine it with a verb.  For instance, When Emma Jean danced…., or Riley opened the door….or Trish started the car. 
  • As a regular warm-up writing practice, similar to a musician playing scales.

I’m going to attempt to save my prompt files in a manner which will not make Typepad angry at me and post them.

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