When I first began to take writing as a serious lifestyle, I treated it as I treat all things; with A-Type Personality All or Nothing zeal. I made sure my pink stainless steel Starbuck mug was full, the computer was on and the wireless mouse had new batteries loaded into it’s who ha!
Then with the intensity of an internet hacker I began to search and ferret out any and everything I could find on the craft of creating a novel. Starting at the obvious sources such as WD (which in turn gave me a list of over 100 Best Websites For Writer’s pdf), I then moved onto the Writer’s Craft, Writer Unboxed, Grammar Girl, Duotrope’s Digest, Writing.com and Funds For Writer’s to name just a few.
And of course I couldn’t leave out my first love, the Sno-isle Library system where I checked out: Orson Card Scott’s ‘How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy; Janet Burroway‘s ‘Writing Fiction; A Guide To Narrative Craft; Sol Steins ‘Solutions For Novelists’, and ‘Solutions For Writer’s; William Noble‘s ‘Three Rules For Writing A Novel’, Shut Up! He Explained’ and Conflict, Action and Suspense as well as The Everything Grammar and Style book by Susan Thurman.
Now besides having offering me an overwhelmingly huge amount of information to digest, they also had several key themes that consistently ran through each: Write, write, and write; Read, read, read and use prompts to Kick Start the process. Ugh!
Prompts? You mean those random, off the wall, bullet point thoughts and one line statements seasoned writer’s are always recommending to emerging writers as one of the many necessary evils needed in the tool box for honing our craft?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I knew that my own talent was certainly not in any need of such childish things, so instead of heeding their wisdom, I tossed it on the same garbage heap with ‘outline’, ‘character back-story’ and ‘plot-line’.
On the back side of recovering my brains, I have to say that eating crow (even with the microbrew of humiliation) is a painful swallow. But I did – eventually. After joining a writers group (which was another recommendation I had to dig out of the garbage heap of pride and arrogance) and discovering that I would be required to produce the fruit of said prompt every other week.
Fear, trembling and lots of anti-acids. Oh yeah! Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee>then lots and lots of anti-acids.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Stop being such a Windy-Whiner! Just put on the big girl panties and start writing (like real writer’s do).” And you’re right. It was time to grow up, sharpen that keyboard and start typing out something brilliant in 500 words or less. And so I did (well I don’t know how brilliant it was, but it was definitely under 500 words), every other week, for the last eight months.
And they were right. Every emerging writer (and probably those who emerged a long time ago) needs to keep writing prompts in the top tray of their tool box.
Why? Because being forced to write about something within a 500 word parameter helps you hone your word count, tighten your content, bolster your writing style and say more with less. It expands the creativity of your right brain while allowing the left side to administer, makes you crawl out of the shoe box of easy commitment as well as giving you a reason to attend the next meet-up (if for no other reason than to wring the neck of the person who thought the prompt up in the first place).
Since committing myself to at least two prompts a month I’ve found a niche of creativity within me that I didn’t know I had. Fact is several weeks ago I discovered that with enough caffeine, chocolate and Holy Spirit unction, I can even write on subjects completely foreign to life on planet Shawn without falling apart.
So if you’ve never written on a prompt, or practiced funneling your thoughts into something less than 500 words, I would highly recommend sights like Writer’s Digest, Be-A-Better-Writer, Creative Writing Prompts>Ideas for Writers or The Write Source. Each offers prompts to stretch the mind expand the process and help you find the key hole to your imagination.
So……what is the craziest prompt you’ve ever had to write on? How did it stretch your skills as a writer?
From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer