Friday, May 24, 2019

Taking Time For Writing Prompts

"At my darkest moment, at my lowest point, I looked up and saw..."

Now write the story.

This is one of many writing prompts you will see throughout the writing universe. Plenty of blogs and social media pages offer periodic writing prompts, and some just exclusively post daily prompts. Plenty of people periodically use them to get their writing juices flowing, while other people pass on them, saying, "I always have something to write about." All of this is valid. I am going to offer an idea about how any writer can improve from a weekly writing prompt.

The most common reason I have heard for when someone tried a writing prompt is, "This one interested me, so I tried it." They usually end up with something that makes them happy, and that's fine. Any time a writer writes, it's a good thing. If a prompt inspires you, then by all means, write. But it can do more than that.

I have often compared developing writing skills with exercising. It's easy to exercise when you're all full of energy, you'll be going with some friends, and everything's going your way. No mystery there. But then there are days when we are tired. Sore. Not in the mood. "I don't want to," becomes the easy answer. On days like that, there is even more value in getting up and exercising, because it drives you against the resistance, fighting the urge to not go. You go to work out not because you want to, but because you know there's value in doing it.

Writing prompts are the same way. Imagine taking on one writing prompt a week, every week. You don't get to choose, it just shows up in your inbox. If you like it, great. If it's tough, well, you still are committed to doing it. What happens then? What does the difficult challenge do to you?

The difficult task always gives the opportunity for the greater reward. When we do the thing we don't want to, we give ourselves a chance of discovering something new. Maybe about our writing style, maybe about how we want to present a story. We examine those unexplored areas, with the chance of finding something new. The is not always the result. Sometimes we don't have that remarkable insight, and walk away with the modest accomplishment of finishing what we promised we'd finished. Not much, but at least we didn't fail.

We grow as writers when we explore the unknown, when we leave our comfort zone. If we do writing prompts now and then because we think we can do them, well, that's the call of the familiar. That's a chance to do that thing we know we do well, and hopefully get better at it. All fine and good, but things start to move when we go outside that area. Not doing what we do well, but trying what we might not be able to accomplish.

If you ever decide to use writing prompts, I can only advise to go all in. Find a page of writing prompts, and just go down the list, doing one a week, every week, regardless of whether you think you can or can't. I recommend this list of ideas to get things going, and here's a good Pinterest site with ideas that you can just tick through. But whatever the case may be, give yourself a chance to charge into these, not because they're easy but because they're difficult, and see what happens to you as a writer.

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