Sunday, June 23, 2013

writing prompts

It seems like just about everyone has some trick or technique or process they want to promote to encourage creative thought in writers who are stuck. Workshops are built around them. Books are written about them.

"Writing the Mind Alive--The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice" with Linda Thrichter Metcalf, Ph.D. and Tobin Simon, Ph.D. is one. Another is "Writing Begins with the Breath" with Laraine Herring, who uses meditation and body work to foster creativity. In Lynda Barry's workshop, "Do You Wish You Could Write?", she encourages participants to doodle while they think...specifically, to draw continuous spirals until inspiration strikes.

And all of them depend upon writing prompts--timed writing prompts--to get the writer to the page. For some people this seems to work. For me? Not so much. Nothing shuts me down like a prompt I have no interest in.
Write for ten minutes about eating cantaloupe. No.
Write about two completely different kinds of feet. No.
Describe a full moon from the point of view of someone who cannot see. Really?

I mean, I get the point. You challenge yourself. You write about topics you would ordinarily avoid. And so, you grow as a writer...unless, of course, you panic because you only have so many minutes to get something down, and you paid a lot to attend the workshop, and sooner or later you'll be expected to read what you've written...which is garbage. Your mind spins helplessly while everyone else is writing fluently and lyrically and intelligently. This actually happened to me at a workshop I attended. It brought me to tears of frustration and self-reproach by the second day.

I need to feel emotionally engaged with a topic before I can produce anything but gibberish. So, because I'm starting to nudge my way into creative nonfiction, I've been looking for nonfiction prompts to inspire me.
How to spend a snowy day. Yes.
Who do you know who carries a heavy burden but doesn't let it show. Yes!
A childhood secret your parents never knew. OK.
Do you like writing to a timed prompt? Or does it frustrate you? What other methods work for you when you're stuck?
“The groove is so mysterious.
We're born with it and we lose it and the world
seems to split apart before our eyes into stupid and cool.
When we get it back, the world unifies around us,
and both stupid and cool fall away.
I am grateful to those who are keepers of the groove.
The babies and the grandmas who hang on to it and help us remember
when we forget that any kind of dancing is better than no dancing at all.”
--Lynda Barry--
   We're expecting a good old-fashioned heat wave this week. Summer has arrived.

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