Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do Writing Prompts Give You Brain Freeze?

My guest tomorrow will be L. Diane Wolfe who blogs as Spunk on a Stick. I hope you'll stop by and give her a warm welcome.


I attended the monthly coffee at the Northern Colorado Writers Studio yesterday morning. As our opening exercise, we took the tiny prompts on our table (about the size of Monopoly pieces) and used them to create a progressive story. We went around the tables twice, about a dozen members, and added a phrase or sentence to keep the tale going. Since we're an eclectic group of writers, the result was fun and interesting.

It's a challenge to write on command when given a verbal or visual prompt. I used to hate doing it and often suffered from brain freeze when a writing instructor used the exercise in a class.

The problem has gone away. No more paralysis.

I give the credit to blogging. If we try to post to our blogs on a regular basis, we need to come up with ideas quickly and turn those ideas into 500 or so words in a short amount of time. I gave myself 20 minutes to write this post, grabbed the idea (which was pretty easy since I was working at the studio at the time), and ran with it.

If you enjoy word prompts, I invite you to give me a sentence in the comments using the word "cactus."

My sentence: My Christmas cactus only blooms at Thanksgiving and Easter, never at Christmas.


welcome to my world of poetry said...

I will look forward to Diana as your guest tomorrow Patricia.

Have a good day.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I love word prompts, but not tonight, my brains cactus! Goodnight.

Karen Walker said...

I hate word prompts, just as much as I hate prickly cactus plants. Like looking at them, though.

irishoma said...

Hi Patricia,
Writing prompts give me stress and make my insides feel cactus-like.
Donna V.
P.S. I posted about your blog and The Blood Red Pencil today. Stop by if you get a chance.

Monti said...

I'm not good at word prompts either. It's great you have an active writer's group nearby in Colorado. No such thing where I live in Virginia.


Carol Kilgore said...

Never water your cactus unless it's raining in Arizona.

Kay said...

Another venue that teaches you to write even though you don't much more than scribbled notes in front of you -- feature-oriented newspapers. Too bad so many of them have disappeared.

Terry Odell said...

When I started toying with writing, I belonged to a group that gave out weekly writing prompts. Since I wasn't working on anything serious at the time, I enjoyed them, but now, most of the time I figure I've got enough to write; I don't want to be distracted.

Then again, one of those writing prompts turned into a fun short story which is now available as a free read from Cerridwen Press. So they've got some uses!

But mostly, if I'm in a workshop and have to write, I go crazy. My pen doesn't have cut and paste.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm not surprised to see that others have that aversion to word prompts -- but I'm also happy that I've found a way to work with them. Very handy for bloggers.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's true that blogging prompts us to think on our feet.

My sentence - If you overwater your cactus, it will rot and die. (My wife tried a cactus once and that was the result!)

Clarissa Draper said...

When my son used to come home from school, he would drop his books (loudly) in his room and huff all the way to mine.

I always asked, "What's wrong?"

He would always reply, "The teacher wants us to write a story."

"What's wrong with that?"

"She wants us to write it about (fill in the blank)."

"I can't just write it about that!" His arms would go up in frustration. "Why can't WE make up what WE want to write about?"

Anyway, I would tell him he had no choice and just try his best. Later he would come to me with his story and each and every time, they were brilliant. (I'm proud of my little story teller.)

So the moral of this extra long comment is: Perhaps prompts help us find our creativity.


Clarissa Draper said...

Hmmm, and perhaps they force us to be better writers because they make us step out of our comfort zone.

Sorry for all the long comments.


Ann Best said...

When I first saw the movie Cactus Flower with Walter Mathau, Goldie Hawn, and Ingrid Bergman, I loved it. I saw it again recently. I still liked it, but not as much as when I first saw it in 1969.

I never knew there so many kinds of cacti (cactuses?) until I saw some in Tucson, Arizona. The desert is awesome.

Hey, I think I can handle word prompts. I was like you when I first did this, during the early eighties when I was in a poetry writing workshop and we did a progressive poem. I felt very self-conscious, afraid I wouldn't be able to think up something that was good. I'd like to see how I would feel doing this today! After having blogged for four months now, I think I would be relaxed doing it.

Another interesting and thought-provoking post. Thanks!

Cruella Collett said...

Oh, fun! First, my sentence (before I am tempted to peek at someone else's) :

Kate never thought she'd enjoy cactus flavoured tea, but when she shifted her gaze from the cup and into Jeffrey's golden eyes, she knew the type of tea was the least of her worries.

The monthly coffee meetings sound interesting. I wonder how I'd react to "real life" events like that. I am comfortable with the online ones, but if the point is to move outside my comfort zone (which I often think is a good idea with writing), then I probably need to consider something more direct.

Maryann Miller said...

I like the point Clarissa made about prompts forcing us to step out of our comfort zone. I think that is true and I also think it makes us better writers. I was in a group once that focused on poetry for the first half-hour of the meeting and I started off not paying attention as I never tried poetry. Then I made myself get into the class and try and was surprised that I can write it. Maybe not well, but well enough that it adds something to my prose.

The cactus stood alone on the barren desert floor like a sentinel calling to the weary traveler.

Patricia Stoltey said...

You guys are priceless -- everything from a rotting cactus to falling in love over cactus flavored tea...not much brain freeze going on here.

Clarissa, I love your story about your son. That's exactly how I always felt when faced with word prompts in a class or workshop. I don't think my results were as good as his, however.

To change the subject, if anyone is interested in discussions on point of view, my post on "Point of View from My Point of View" is at The Blood-Red Pencil today:

Patricia Stoltey said...

Or you can look over there in my blogroll under Blogs About Writing and Social Media and click on The Blood-Red Pencil.

Barbara Scully said...

Hi Patricia.... you must be psychic. I have a Christmas Cactus which has happily sat on my hall window sill where it enjoys the full on rays of the morning sun (well when its not raining that is!!!). It has always seemed content and produces a profusion of pink loveliness in December. But yesterday I gazed at it and it definitely does not look happy. Perhaps its just old age... but my cactus aint happy. So send it some happy cactus vibes plse!

Mission accomplished!