Today, I turned to my writer’s block for inspiration. That sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but this writer’s block is a small, squat book called The Writer’s Block: 786 Ideas to Jump-start Your Imagination.
I rarely resort to using a prompt; it hurts my pride. But the weekly blog I’ve written for the past five years has fallen off to monthly of late and I’m starting to panic. If I’ve run out of interesting things to share, maybe I shouldn’t be blogging at all. At least, that’s what my mean-spirited internal naysayer would have me believe. My more charitable internal cheerleader reminds me that I’ve been so busy lately working on my manuscript that of course my blog posts have suffered. I’m grateful that the cheerleader can take the naysayer in a fair fight, but it doesn’t really change the fact that I’m coming up empty. And so I close my eyes and open the block.
In addition to prompts, which they call “spark words,” the block has short stories, advice and photos. The first page I open to is an advice piece called, “Write Naked,” something Victor Hugo apparently used to do. I shudder and flip to a different page. This time I land on the prompt, HEIST. I groan. Since I have never robbed a bank, or participated in any Ocean’s Eleven– (or Twelve- or Thirteen-) style activity, this is not a spark that will ignite a personal anecdote. (It did cause me to wander off to look at Mohegan Sun’s website, but that was a delaying tactic which is not at all what I’m after here.)
Writers have their own unique processes; what works for one may be stifling for another. It would be logical, then, to assume that there is no right way to use prompts. But I think there should be one basic rule: when you resort to looking for a prompt, you should use the one you stumble on first. The alternative is to reject the prompt and look at another one, and so on, and so on. When you allow yourself the luxury to hunt for an appealing prompt, you’ve defeated the purpose of the whole thing. You might as well use all that time to think about something you’d really like to write about, which leaves me with HEIST.
The last time I gave in to the urge to write about not having anything to write about was in May of 2011, in a post called Writing Prompt. In the end, it wasn’t about that at all. I hoped that this piece would also take an interesting turn near the end and I would be able to salvage an otherwise mundane offering with a soupçon of insight. I’m afraid, however, that will not happen here. (Ouch! My internal naysayer just decked my internal cheerleader.) Instead, I will spend the next few days thinking about ways to incorporate the word HEIST into my life. Perhaps my next post will be from jail. TTFN.
Some of the most fun stuff I’ve written has been from prompts…of a sort. SF Olympians festival (submit an idea for a play of X length based on the following figures from Greek mythology) or the Women in Solodarity Festival (a one-woman short play about women and technology). I would never ever have come up with these plays without the prompts…and deadlines. That’s the other part that’s important. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Virginia Rogers, gave us a prompt every Friday for our creative writing class. I remember one was to write a story from the point of view of an object. I loved Fridays. The stuff I write that I’m prompted to write by my life…? Usually pretty grim. Stuff from prompts? Romantic bawdy comedy. If only my life were one…
Oh, and my writing mentor, David Ford, suggested that in Chekov’s the Cherry Orchard there is a monologue about a piece of furniture that sounds suspiciously like writing for a prompt…
Also, either your blog page is snowing or I’m having a visual migraine…
See you bright and early tomorrow! Yay!
Cool how WordPress makes it snow, huh? Looking forward to hearing all your stories, live!
I have video too……. And I look forward to getting to read your manuscript!
Maybe giving up the blog for a while is a good idea, especially since you have a manuscript to work on. You may find that later, when you return to the blog, you’ll be full of ideas. I have a different problem: I’ve got the ideas, but my last two queries drew rejections. But we plod on, not knowing where it will lead.
Here’s an external cheerleader jumping in to wrestle your internal naysayer down to the floor! I know you have lots of thoughts and ideas to share–and better yet–to stimulate in others!
Keep writing, despite the manuscript pressures. Even if it’s just 100 words. Keep writing.
Write naked? Ha! I’ve been inspired by many prompts, but I won’t be trying that one any time soon.
Why does a prompt hurt your pride? I’ve been inspired by many things: a phrase, an image, a glimpse, the weather, an anecdote. In the end, the spark is small, but the words it inspires become much bigger.
Besides, your energy has gone into a pretty fabulous manuscript.