The Writer's Life

Take Chances With Your Writing and You Can Expand Your Talents

The first year I taught high school creative writing, I experimented with daily prompts. Why? My required English/language arts students always seemed to have difficulty deciding what to use as a topic for any given essay. They would waste so much time trying to decide that what they did take time to write was weak. I wanted better use of time with my creative writing course – after all, the course only lasted for one semester.

I started with a sustained 10 minutes at the beginning of the hour for students to write about anything they desired. I was naive at that time. I mistakenly believed that first year that since they had voluntarily signed up for the elective course, creative writing, that they would be flowing with ideas. Yeah, no. A big fat no.

That first 10 minutes required my students to let their thoughts roam on a topic and explore where that topic took them. To write with abandon because even though I collected the progress each day to hold them accountable, I did not read or judge the words on the page unless the student wrote “Please, read” at the top of the page. Writing to a timed prompt forced them to get the words down – to take chances.

It took me less than a week to realize that I needed to give them some type of direction about what to write and that I needed somehow to make that sustained writing count for part of their grade. I regenerated part of that list for Ink & Keyboard Weekly subscribers in March.

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I had so much success with these prompts, I had my students take one of their daily prompts each week and work to polish it into a finished piece.

During those 10 minutes, I wrote with my students. It’s interesting how much you can write when you train yourself to just focus on a specific project or topic. That timer forces you to get it down – good and bad – and write in ink on actual paper (not typed).

Why ink and actual paper? It’s not easy to revise as you work in ink without tearing the page out of the notebook or using a lot of correction medium. There is also a cathartic aspect of using ink and paper. (And yes, although I do most of my writing for any given project on my laptop or tablet, I don’t write my morning pages or my prompt pages on these electronic choices.)

I like prompts. They force me to take chances, to write in a genre I normally wouldn’t, to explore a topic or character that is outside my wheelhouse.

One summer, while camping, I took my prompt pages to a more difficult level. I had hubby give me five words to weave into one piece.

Another chance to get the words on the page and allow my writing to expand was to participate in a story writing project called “14 Day + 7 Prompts = 1 Story.” The person responsible for this project found on presented a prompt that had to be worked into one single project by the end. Difficult? Yes. Rewarding in the end? Definitely. It pushed me past my comfort zone in writing that year.

You can try a month of prompts by clicking HERE. You can search the internet by typing “adult writing prompts.” Why “adult”? Because many times, the search will bring you to prompts designed for students in elementary school.

Take time each day to write with abandon. Write anything. Write everything. But most of all, have some fun with your writing.

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