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.
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 rulesmore 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.