Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Writer's Addiction: Writing Prompts

The morning after the night before?
I have a confession. Though I don’t think I have an addictive personality there are some things in life I can’t resist; and almost all of them are writing-related. Stationery is the main one, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. What qualifies you better to be a writer than the desire to spend an amount equivalent to the national debt of a small country on notebooks too beautiful ever to write in?

This isn’t my biggest weakness, though fortunately the real one comes without a price tag attached. I’m an absolute sucker for writing prompts. I’ve bought a couple of books but mainly I find them on the internet. I’m friends with people who post them (and who, I bet, wonder of anyone ever uses them). I follow sites and accounts. I scan my Twitter feed for them.

The irony is that, like the notebooks, I don’t need them. If there’s one thing I’m not short of, it’s inspiration. I have a list of story ideas (and novel ideas) that could keep me busy for years to come if I followed them up. I have so many works in progress that I can’t keep up. But I can always find something.

Discipline’s another thing, of course; procrastination is my biggest vice. (Another tell-tale sign of a writer.) But I don’t need a writing prompt so much as a boot up the backside.

So why the fascination? It’s because every writing class I’ve been to has involved an exercise, or a piece of homework, based upon a writing prompt. It can be something as simple as an instruction: just write. Anything. Go! It can be an opening sentence. It can be an idea, a word, concept that serves as a starting point. I have had several short stories published as a result of these prompts.  

These days they’re more visual. I got into the habit of carrying a camera with me and photographing things that might trigger an idea. Then, after an unfortunate allocation with a rather rude man who would allow me to include him in my picture only on certain conditions, I stopped because I didn’t need the hassle. 

But I’ve started again (avoiding people, sadly). Today I saw the perfect writing prompt on the greyest of days. I challenge you. Write about this picture — without using the word Cinderella.