These days I've been thinking about writing prompts, those one or two line suggestions that push you to write about something you might not have thought of, or in a way that makes you acutely uncomfortable ("Using words of only one syllable...). For one of my sabbatical projects I've been reading books and lists of writing prompts (yes, I have read, cover to cover, 1000 Awesome Writing Prompts and am well into 642 Things to Write About) and imagining writing prompts for scientists from the prosaic — "Describe your research in 2 sentences." — to the wacky — "There is a button in the hood. No one knows what it does. Do you push it? Why or why not? If you do, what happens?"
Interesting things I've found along the way:
- A great reddit for writing prompts with some solidly helpful advice for writing good prompts (founded by Ryan Kinder, the author of 1000....)
- Theo Sanderson's XKCD inspired tool for writing using only the ten hundred most common words. #UpGoerFive
So what prompts my writing? Sometimes those 10 minute writes, often an image. A walk can shake things loose. I keep a little book in my bag where I scribble down my own private prompts (which I admit that sometime later I can't alway read or remember what I thought was so inspiring — what was I thinking when I scribbled down "tea on Tuesday/Sherlock/watchmaker/became, not veiled" last February? I've no idea at all.)
What about deadlines? I know some people who swear by deadlines as inspiration, but I find they provoke more terror than prose. I have a whole slew of deadlines coming up, for some very interesting projects (including a bilingual one — woot!). I asked Math Man last night to remind me that no matter how interesting the project, I'm booked up until late August!
What prompts your best writing?