I’m not a fan of writing prompts because I don’t find them compelling. All prompts are contrived. An anonymous composer, should I say contriver, distilled a a drop or two of essence from a particularly rewarding writing session. They packaged it as a question or situation or evocative eliptical. That half-teaspoon of muse soaked into the page of a student writing workbook or a random generator on the Internet. Here is sits before me.
Why the hell should this matter to me? Obviously I wipe it away before I begin typing.
Wait. A real writer, a professional writer, could compose a 1000 words from any featureless request. Couldn’t they? Shouldn’t I at least try?
In High School I tried because I didn’t have a choice. Mr. Brainard—he said he could see me becoming a pro—gave us a prompt and expected results before the end of the hour. He didn’t grade on quantity or quality or creativity. I’m sure he prised those things, but he didn’t mark against a lack of any of those. He marked against nothing. He didn’t grade on the relationship to the prompt either. As I recall, at least once I refused the prompt and wrote what I wanted to write.
As I write this, it comes to mind that writing to a prompt gave me the freedom not to worry over the output. I blamed the prompt for uninteresting results.
Still, I find it difficult to treat prompts as if they were a workout, a training regimine. Prompts don’t parallel free throws and layups as much as they do a game of HORSE. I guess shooting more baskets is better than shooting less regardless of the scenario, but adding nine other guys to the court, a second basket, a ref, and a time clock is not a linear progression of difficulty.
This week I’ll work from prompts despite my thin enthusiasm for them. I will try really really hard not to waste my time clicking through the bad ones to find less bad ones hoping to find good ones.