I quite like prompts – words or phrases given to encourage inspiration for writing. Last year I took part in the ’52’ project, which involved writing poems to a weekly prompt provided by Jo Bell on her website. The results were posted, by around 600 participants, on a private forum which encouraged feedback and comments. I liked the prompts; they were very varied, and I usually got something out of them. They’re being published in a book, scheduled for later in the year, and I look forward to it.
Taking part in the NaPoWriMo project, as I did in 2013, I wrote myself a list of optional prompts beforehand, some of which I used, and others I didn’t.
The prompts which work best for me are single words, and often the simpler the better. What I don’t like, and I’ve sometimes had this in writing groups, are complex ones, especially ones which give a complete sentence and ask you to use this as an opening line for your own work. I find these narrow the possibilities too much – for me anyway – and I’m almost always unable to follow up.
Some of my 2013 NaPoWriMo prompts resulted in poems which have subsequently been published, so it was a good thing for me. And some of the ’52’ poems have been published in magazines. But after a whole year of writing to prompts, I have to confess that writing unprompted poems came as a refreshing change, and at the moment I’m working without them. I’m doing NaPoWriMo again this year, but I’m doing it ‘straight’. I just sit down first thing in the morning and see what happens. So far – and I’m past the halfway point – it seems to be working.