Those Hokey Writing Prompts And Why I Need Them

Today the Daily Post asks the question:  Are writing prompts a useful exercise, or do you find them to be too limiting and/or hokey?

And my answer, in accordance with my trademark double speak is “Yes” and “Yes.”

There are days where I can’t bear the thought of producing yet another over wrought journal entry, or succumbing to trite tales about my pets or children, only because I can’t think of any new topics. Before I know it, I’m sinking into a familiar world of inertia.   It’s tempting to think a fabulous idea will come to me if I wait long enough, but a history of unproductive hours, of precious time lost while I stare at the wall, tap my toes, count the ceiling tiles – again! –  confirms my need for external stimuli to charge me up and set me loose.  My best bet is to simply start writing, even if my only “inspiration” is a canned writing prompt.

Yesterday was wasted, in terms of writing accomplishment.  With my children newly returned to the routine of school and my personal schedule blank for the day, there was nothing preventing me from hours of productive work.  My work space was clean and inviting, and a fresh carafe of brewed coffee sat at my elbow.  Several projects awaited my attention:  an old novel manuscript is ready for an edit/rewrite, and two short stories need final touches before they can be deemed worthy of submission. I didn’t want to work on them, though.  I wanted to write something new, something fresh, something inspiring…but I couldn’t think of anything.

So I sat.  And I waited.  I drank all the coffee.  I checked facebook obsessively, and played several rounds of Words with Friends.  After two hours of time wasting behavior, I closed my lap top and gave up for the day, without typing a single word.  (Unless you count Words with Friends – I scored major points there.)

Today began as a mirror image of yesterday until I read the Daily Post.  That’s when I realized that I needed a prompt, something – anything – to get my writing routine jump started again.  So here I am, writing about my struggles with not writing.  Is it hokey?  Yes – but it worked. I’ve produced more than yesterday (not difficult, something is always more than nothing), and the physical act of typing words has awakened my senses, reminding me of topics I want to explore and story lines I am eager to expand upon. The prompt has served its purpose; I’ve cracked the lid on a forgotten treasure chest of imaginary worlds.

So keep those hokey writing prompts coming!  I can only count those ninety-six ceiling tiles so many times before I get a crick in my neck.

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