How to work with prompts

Prompts are not exercises – not things to do well, do right, be clever with – they are ways of jump-starting your imagination and you cannot get them wrong. Maybe the prompt is a photograph of a seaside scene but what you notice is the yellow of the sand, and yellow reminds you of cowardice, and that takes you to a time you or a character did something cowardly – that’s your prompt even if no one would necessarily see the connection to the photo. Or maybe the prompt is just one word: Stay. Stay with me baby you write thinking of the song, and you’re off for a paragraph writing about a woman begging her lover not to leave. But then something else entirely flies into your head; it might not even be connected to the word ‘stay’ but it’s alive for you, juicy. Well, then the prompt just got your writing going: it was a kind of warm up until the thing that you really want to write about popped into your mind. Great! Abandon the jilted lover and don’t look back, go with where the energy is.

Maybe you just need to free associate from the prompt until something grabs your interest. Sometimes you just need the prompt to give you one line. Write that line and then see what comes into your head, You only need the next sentence – not even a sentence – the next word to write. You might even write about having nothing to write about until that becomes your subject, or until it takes you someplace else.

If you are going to work with the Friday Prompt I suggest deciding how long you are going to write for before you start: ten minutes, thirty minutes, an hour.


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