Why Writing Prompts?

How is it that so much hemming and hawing is done when it comes to writing a report, a diary entry, a thesis, or a work of fiction?  We do not find a million other things to do when it comes to eating, but when it comes to writing we will find any number of distractions.  The connection between mind and hand is a strange one, useful when we are eating soup or buttoning a shirt, but put pen to paper and procrastination ensues.  I am a writer.  I know other writers.  I know we all encounter the same difficulty.  That is why there are writing prompts.

Writing prompts encourage and cajole us into creativity.  There are no rules.  You write whatever the prompt suggests for you, in any style, in any genre, in any person, using any point of view with whatever characters you can fathom.  Prompts free a writer.  They jog a writer’s puzzle-solving self.

John Gardner is still the master of writing prompts, although I am sure he would have referred to them as writing exercises, as in pushups.  In his book, “The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers,” he provides numerous ways to stretch a writer’s abilities and sensibilities.  My favorite is “Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder.  Do not mention the murder.”  Prompts are the equivalent of a writer’s weight training.  Prompts take you in directions you may never have considered.  They may turn out to be the start of a short story, a novella or novel.  They may lead you to try something new in your journal or diary.  They may make getting down to work easier when it comes to writing a thesis.  Writing prompts also help remove writer’s block by focusing your thoughts elsewhere.

Websites with writing prompts:

- Nancy D.


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