By Beth Crosby
Rock Hill Chapter
A couple of months ago, I visited Barbara Lawing at her farm. The weather was hot, but the surroundings were cool and nurturing. She asked if I would like to write. Yes! She teaches writing and editing, so I was honored by the invitation.
Because my background is in news writing, I have always felt most comfortable writing non-fiction. Unfortunately, I was so sure that I would work in news that I wrote only enough fiction to get through my classes. My creativity emerged in selecting the best word to convey meaning. Generating a fictional story of people and places was not in my repertoire.
Barbara asked if I wanted to write from prompts. I thought, “Sure. Why not?” I was intrigued by the challenge. She pulled out three baskets of prompts. One was quotes from people or books, one was descriptions of settings, and one was simply words or phrases that inspired a creative spark. We selected a topic and set a timer for seven minutes to write on dreams. We free-wrote and decided we needed a few more minutes. The timer ticked the seconds away. Thoughts and deep feelings on dreams unreached and unrealized flowed from my pen. I rushed to capture every thought within the allotted time. Wow, where did that come from? Some deeply hidden issues arose that I need to address. Although no characters came forth, some emotions that I know most other people can relate to did. And it was a starting point. I read aloud, and Barbara was reassuring. She shared her work, too. We had completely different takes on the prompt.
Another time, I was inspired by the words ‘persnickety’ and ‘camellia.’ I launched into a story about a couple who met in Charleston. I was inspired. I was on a research path…to nowhere. It didn’t come together. But I shared the idea with another writer who helped me see beyond the box I had drawn around my story to develop a tale of intricate facts and back story. She was brilliant.
Recently, I went to a writers meeting that is defined as a time to write from prompts. The group had several ideas to consider before deciding on one to use: things that rain down. One person came up with phrases about inspiring topics like the peace and grace of God raining down. It sounded like fresh phrases from the Psalms. Another wrote of ammunition raining down in a war zone. Two others saw rain falling from the skies through a window, and I wrote of “reign” and that I need to relinquish reign of my life to God’s will. We entertained a second prompt about a good thing that happened this week but went terribly wrong. I wrote a humorous post, and no one was more surprised than I!
Because of these experiences, I find writing from prompts less of a homework assignment and more of a way to shake loose some of the thoughts and ideas that clog my creative process. Sometimes I get something interesting to write more thoroughly, like the story of Camellia. Other times, I find I need to work through an emotional block like continuing to dream.
If you would like some great prompts, keep a basket like Barbara does, or visit one of these sites:
http://www.dailyteachingtools.com/journal-writing-prompts.html, http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises, or http://writingexercises.co.uk/subjectgenerator.php. The third one generated the writing prompt, “Write your obituary” the first time I used it. I decided another would be more fun and liked the second prompt of “Write about an experience that changed your way of thinking” better!
CHALLENGE: Fresh from the Camden creative-writing workshop yesterday, I’ll share Bob Strother’s challenge that Luke Whisnant issued at the Rock Hill Writers Intensive this spring: Get a partner and share prompts daily for 30 days. Each submits a prompt (a word, phrase or other idea) to the other early in the morning, and they each write a work of any length and genre from the prompt and submit it to the partner by midnight the same day. He found this to provide a plethora of ideas for short stories, novels, and even poetry!
Prompts are just starting points. If you feel uncomfortable with a topic, consider why. It might be something others can relate to. If necessary move on to something that inspires you. But most importantly, write any time you feel inspiration and search for inspiration when necessary!
Beth Crosby is a freelance writer and editor based in Rock Hill, SC. You may contact her at EditorBethCrosby@gmail.com.