Trying Something New in our Creative Writing and Memoir Classes Feb. 10, 2021                            Carol Brennan King

We talked first in both classes about how prompts can free our creativity, giving us opportunities to think about different words and how to use them in fresh ways. Then we talked about How to use prompts. 

#1: DON’T Limit Yourself to Prose. There is no reason you must use the writing prompts to write prose. Those words may tell you they want to be in a piece of poetry, or they act best on a stage, so write them into a script for a play or the screen. It may trigger thoughts that are best expressed in an essay or the text of a song.

Allow your imagination to write, without an end in mind, to see what you can invent.

 #2: DON’T Edit as You Write The purposes of writing prompts is to spark your imagination, to connect the new words with old memories and get you to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Writing from a prompt or prompts is like building without a plan, so run with whatever comes out.

If you stop to edit as you write, you may lose that train of thought that would have taken you on a wonderful adventure. Let the editing come when the fingers get tired, and when you are fresh.

 #3: DO Interpret the Prompt Broadly If the word is paint, you might think about a “painted lady,” or what the great masters did to produce artworks that fill the walls of museums, or you might think of the painting your child or grandchild did that is on the refrigerator. Maybe it is graffiti that comes to mind and then the life of the graffiti artist. The point is to kind of fingerpaint with words. There is no one way to use any of the prompts given in class.

If you’re using a writing prompt, it doesn’t have to be the first sentence of your story or poem or in the first sentence either; you can also use another word the original prompt brings to your mind.

 #4: DO Try Switching Up Your Writing Methods If you normally write with an ink pen and a legal pad, try writing with a pencil or a crayon or type on the computer. But try to lay your words down in a new fashion.

If you normally write at a desk, go into the kitchen or the dining room. Try out the bedroom of one of your kids, whether they live with you still or not. Go to a coffeeshop if it is possible and listen to the conversations around you to find a new prompt. The point is to give your brain a new way to think.

You might try a voice recorder or that function on your phone. Just test some new surroundings; maybe your neighbor might let you in for half an hour to write in a window that looks into your house.

 #5: DO Mix and Match Prompt Ideas

Feel free to combine several prompts in one piece or even on sentence. You can also try switching genres from what might be suggested in the prompt. For instance, try using one of the prompts to write something silly, especially if you don’t write humor. Or think through a child’s eyes, the one you were or your own child.

 #6: DO Try to Write Regularly The more regularly you write, the easier it will be to write (with or without writing prompts). For some people, this means writing daily; for others, it means setting aside time to write each weekend or each month. Set yourself an achievable goal ( like write 2x a week, write 1000 words a month) and stick to it. You can always start small and then ramp your wordcount or frequency up.

If you do better when you have something outside yourself prompting to write, you may also want to try something like morning pages, which encourages you to write at least 750 words every day, in any format (story, diary entry, social media postings, etc).

Adapted from

Image result for men's used gloves

Writing prompts for the Creative Writing Class: Prompts: along the road, loud bang, blood stains, tablecloth, gloves.

Or begin your writing with the phrase, “The stage was set.”   

Writing prompts for the Nonfiction/Memoir Class: Prompts: dog, reunion, guilty, fast food, ring(for the finger, for the horses, for the race cars?), or Valentine’s Day

Map of fast food

Or write a scene starting with a regular family ritual that goes awry.

Perhaps it could be something as simple as the breakfast milk has soured and you invite your readers to see who discovered that and what happened next.

So have fun writing this week, and if it fits your schedule, try for a half hour Monday through Friday, and see what happens. And if you are not in our class, call the Abington Community Library and get in on the fun.

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