Writers have a love/hate relationship with writing prompts. We love them, because they can help us get past writer’s block, get the creative juices flowing, and can simply be fun.
Why hate them? I remember being told once, “Don’t bother with writing prompts. It’s a waste of creative energy and never produces anything publishable, especially since there’s a thousand other people writing about the same prompt.”
Wow. That’s a pretty powerful statement against the writing prompt, a simple small message that encourages you to write. Let me pick that apart, though.
- “waste of creative energy“: I’m a firm believer that any creative energy used is better than creative energy not used. This statement places a qualitative value on certain creative efforts over others. Is writing a poem less valuable than writing a novel? Is writing a novel less valuable than painting a canvas?
- “never produces anything publishable“: Whether or not something is publishable is not a matter of its source of inspiration; it’s a matter of the writer’s quality and style combined with the market.
- “there’s a thousand other people writing about the same prompt“: Of those thousand, how many are going to write something they feel so strongly about they take to a publisher? Not only that, this statement also seems to indicate that writing is a market that values only one voice on a topic. Here is a 4 page list of famous poetry on death. Is only one of these poems “the best”? Would you trash all the rest as a publisher for only one?
To give you an example of how writing prompts can blossom, let me introduce you to “722“. 722 is so named because it was the 722 writing prompt in a list of over 1,000 writing prompts I had on my computer at the time. Looking for inspiration, I used random.org to pick a prompt for me.
Read the short story, and then read the author’s comments to see what my writing prompt was. You’ll see how one small sentence turned into a beautiful love story, and maybe come to believe that writing prompts can be a little more powerful than you imagined.