We're back to a "creative" week! I've chosen writing prompts as my challenge, because writing is still something I'd like to do, even though I haven't made time for it lately. Outside of the blog, I mean. The writing I'd like to be doing is fiction.
I can't remember a time when I didn't like writing prompts. Prompts get you past the "blank page" fears. They give you something to put at the top, and they make continuing on easier. Prompts are an easy place to start, whether you're beginning a big project or a single day of writing.
You can use nearly anything as a writing prompt. It could be as simple as a color (orange) or word (boxcar), or something much more complex, such as a list of words, a sentence from something else, or a situation (two characters stuck in an elevator). Most prompts can be used for fiction, nonfiction, and journaling. It's easy to convert them. Say you want to use a journaling prompt, "write about your best friend," for fiction. All you have to do is substitute "your character" for "you." Now you can "write about your character's best friend." Or the other way around.
There are lot of writing prompts out there; a Google search will bring you more prompts than you could ever write responses. I like this 30 Day Challenge (my Google search was "writing challenges," of course) from Tumblr. (Tumblr is another internet thing I don't really understand, like Reddit.)
I plan to use the first prompt every day, for seven days: "Select a book at random in the room. Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story." I'll use seven different books, but I'm not going to limit myself to fiction. I'm going to work outward from my desk, using the first seven books I find.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind about prompts is that it doesn't really matter what you write. This is a good way to experiment, to see how different things work out, without the pressure of, say, writing the opening paragraph of your novel. Which is not to say that the writing will be bad; just that it doesn't have to be good, or useful, or anything. Responding to prompts is an exercise, a means rather than an end, and should be fun.
If you've never written anything before, I highly recommend you try writing a response to a prompt. You can use your own, one from that list or another, or the one I'm using. You can even use the same lines I'm using. Basically, there are no rules. Just find a prompt and write something.
Here are the books and the lines I'll use:
- 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, 3rd Ed. (Steve Henry): "When you reach the park headquarters, the Rockywood joins with the 1,000 Steps Trail, follows it to the overlook shelter for the second panoramic vista on the Rockywood Trail, and then ends with a descent to the Thunderbird Lodge."
- Going Out with Peacocks and Other Poems (Ursula K. Le Guin): "The Mountains of the sun are steep,/ rising to shadow at the crown,/ and valleys of the sun are deep/ and ever brighter deeper down."
- The Practical Brewer (Master Brewers' Association of America, 1946): "There is no truth in the claim that beer or other mild alcoholic beverages develop an appetite for stronger and stronger liquors..."
- Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails: "The next round's on me."
- The Art of Fermentation (Sandra Ellix Katz): "By engaging life forces, we rediscover and reconnect with our context."
- Blizzard of One: Poems (Mark Strand): "Of happiness, as if that plain fact were enough and would last."
- 80 Beetles (Mark Cunningham): "But this is silly, because they wouldn't say that unless I'd already started."
Now I feel like I have to explain why I have these books at hand.
I had 60 Hikes out because I was reading about St. Francois State Park.
I've been reading the Ursula K Le Guin poetry and was surprised to find out how much I like it. I'd even go so far as to say I love it. It's accessible, interesting and it resonates with me.
The Practical Brewer was a gift to Eric from our neighbor, Justin. I used the last line of the text, but after that, there's The Brewers' Code of Practice, which ends with "We pledge ourselves faithfully to observe the provisions of this Code of Practice, convinced that beer is the nation's bulwark of moderation and sobriety." HAHAHAHA.
Death & Co was gift from Eric's sister, Carissa. We have two copies of The Art of Fermentation, so let me know if you want one.
And Blizzard of One and 80 Beetles (along with the Le Guin poetry) were all Christmas gifts from my wonderful brother, Patrick.
Now I have all the books on my desk, which makes me feel good, because I love books, but will make that cats unhappy, because the books are in the warm spot next to the laptop fan.
Okay, enough stalling. On the first prompt!