Discussion #5: Prompts

I know I’m late getting here. It’s been one of those weeks. Too much to deal with and no real time to think about it before the next thing comes rolling in to knock me off my feet. Between things, I’ve been trying to come up with a topic for us to discuss. Truth be told, I’ve rejected most of them. Not because they are ‘bad’ topics, but because I’m not so much in the mood for discussion of any sort.

For the first time in over a year, I tried to write a poem this week and couldn’t finish it. Scary. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t write anything. I did. I wrote in my journal every day and posted some short verse for the daily stones.  And the day after I couldn’t write that poem, I did write another in response to a prompt. Which only tells me that I am a bit scattered in the aftermath (at least hoping it can be defined as aftermath) of what has occurred this past week.

Paula mentioned last week, that she can’t write about something unless it stirs her feelings. I’m finding it hard to write because my feelings are so stirred up. I can’t seem to focus in on just one thing. This isn’t Writer’s Block. I have been able to write, but only about things that are not too stirring, lol. Which brings me to today’s topic by default: how do you choose which prompt you will respond to on any given day? Do you let your emotions rule and decide that way? Or do you overrule your emotional response and bull your way through to something for posting?

There are days when I look at a prompt and my only response is, “Oh, shit.” So, I walk away and let it simmer back there out on the back forty. I do other things, read, play with colors, and if I’m really desperate, I’ll even do the dishes. Most often something will begin to whisper in my inner ear. It may be an oblique, or even obscure means of getting at the topic at hand, but I will try it. Most often that works.

When it doesn’t, I’ll go back into my files and see if there is anything there that might be pertinent. I’ve been writing long enough that I actually have a lot of cushion for that activity. Failing that, I will simply put up a post and say it isn’t to prompt. Given the right mood and attitude, I’ve been known to allow myself to simply play hookie and hope for a better day tomorrow. That doesn’t happen often.

So, for this week, I would ask that you speak to the issue of how you choose the prompts to which you respond. Do you skip them at times? Do they get to be too much? Do you allow yourself to play hookie, or go looking for a better or more pleasing opportunity? And when, or if you do such things, how do you feel about it? Do you have favorite prompt sites, or do you go exploring and choose among a number of them? Have you ever responded to more than one prompt with the same piece of writing? Do you think that’s cheating or overachievement in action?

And before I quit, I’d like to thank all of you who responded to last week’s discussion. It was quite educational and I found a lot of poetry hiding in your responses. I sort of got a bit wrapped up in the image of a poem as hijacker (thanks Margo) and wondered if the poem would look like Angelina Jolie wrapped in spandex, walk like John Wayne, be carrying a AK-47, and be driving a classic Corvette convertible, or riding a glistening dragon. And just what would it demand for a ransom? Guess the imagination factor hasn’t lost much to all of that stirring.


About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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13 Responses to Discussion #5: Prompts

  1. pmwanken says:

    Oh, Elizabeth. Good questions. Perhaps an additional angle would be a question I shared with Margo a while back: whether prompts are a crutch or a prod for me.

    I hadn’t been writing very long before I stumbled upon the prompt sites. Those first couple are still some of my favorites: Three Word Wednesday and Theme Thursday. And of course…there was the entire month of April and the Poem-a-Day prompts at Poetic Asides. I have continued to post there on Wednesdays…and I have added The Sunday Whirl, Poetic Bloomings, and Margo’s Tuesday Tryouts…among several others!

    There have been times when I am thinking I’d like to write something, and nothing comes to mind. Nothing that strikes a chord anyway. Literally a moment later I might look at one of the prompts…and my mind is instantly filled. I definitely like writing to prompts, and lean more toward “prod” than “crutch.”

    As for choosing which prompts to write to…I basically write to all the ones I go to. I’ve just limited my list to what I feel is manageable right now.

    I have my list of prompts organized by day of the week. It used to be easier to remember what prompt day it was because there was only one per day. But now, there are some days that have multiple prompt sites I can check out.

    Because I have so many sites I go to for prompts, and some days my time is more limited than others, I end up spreading the prompts out and not responding on the day of the prompt. Meanwhile, I will still read the next days prompts. That’s when combining prompts is more likely. Now, instead of one idea bouncing around in my head, there are two, three, four, or more! I’ve been amazed at how often prompts fit together like puzzle pieces. I wonder what I possibly would have written to the one prompt by itself had I not had it’s missing piece given to me in the next day’s prompt. So…I guess I don’t see that as cheating…OR overachievement.

    I have skipped a few prompts…mostly when, after two or three days of bouncing around in my head, they didn’t take root. The only prompts that really gnaw at me until I get back to them are the Three Word Wednesday and Wordle prompts. I think it must be the challenge of using multiple words that draws me in…and won’t let me go until I have responded.

    Thanks again, Elizabeth. Good topic for discussion. I look forward to reading others’ responses regarding prompts.


    • pmwanken says:

      Hmmm….could I have possibly used the word “prompt” a few more times!? 😉 I also didn’t mention that, lately, I haven’t been posting something daily (besides the small stones). That does also kind of poke at me a bit…but I don’t want writing to feel like a chore I have to check off my list. If it doesn’t happen on any given day, I’m trying not to let the “poking” stick beat me over the head. 🙂

  2. Mike Patrick says:

    It was a couple of months after I started my blog before I even found a prompt site. At first, they felt like cheating. Real poems come by osmosis or something, not a prompt. With time, osmosis fell flat and I needed something: prompts were perfect.

    Like Paula, I have a list (by day of the week) of prompts. I’ll scan through them every few days to see if anything resonates. There are some prompts, which not only don’t inspire me, they turn me off. I don’t know why. Maybe they feel too feminine or something, but I can’t relate.

    Much more often, as soon as I see a prompt, my mind goes into hyper-drive. A theme presents itself and my fingers can’t wait to hit the keys. The subconscious begins dictating much faster than I can type.

    I also use prompts that aren’t prompts. Not every line of every poem we write is a super line, but
    daily I read poems that have super lines in them. These are lines that grab me. I find myself saying, “Oh, my,” under you breath. Instantly, a chain of thought takes off and I find myself matching words to the rhythm and rhyme of that magic line. A poem writes itself because something about that magic line resonates with something deep inside. These are the most beautiful, relevant poems I write.

    I also have a guilty pleasure when it comes to prompts. My favorite prompts aren’t the ones I write poems to, they are the WordPress prompts that Tilly makes fun of. I agree with her, they are almost uniformly horrible, but her simply pointing out how silly they are transforms them from the pits to sublime perfection.

    Oh oh, now Tilly and I are both going to be kicked off WordPress. Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into, Tilly.

  3. neil reid says:

    About prompts? (Well you know Elizabeth I’m pretty invested in this question, albeit from a somewhat different perspective.) However, in sum I’d say I take the same course that water does.

    First, as a writer I am not very attached to prompts actually. I do them most for a sense of participation and interaction, and not for personal inspiration. I find more than enough to write about all on my own. And while my initial prompt participation (with deep gratitude) came via Read Write Poems, I find these days that I respond more to less common sorts of notions and am continually looking for subjects and forms that most challenge me as a writer.

    Description of a good prompt: one which when I first consider it, I don’t have a clue how to proceed, or that it just seems plain impossible. (And no, I’m not that brave all the time, certainly, but that’s my “ideal” prompt.) As a consequence sometimes I respond to community prompts, and (honestly) often I don’t (because I’m working on something else of my own). Add to that the constraint of a full time job and other concerns, and my time is some limited that way. Do I beat myself up over that result? Not much any more, and I care more about writing what I want to write (wherever I am on my learning curve). Although I do sincerely miss not having more community participation in the role of writer (but I gotta choose where my energy goes). You may further amend this with the fact that often I write rather slowly (and am fussy about my mental environment), often letting a poem simmer in the background for quite some number of days (even if some few just fall into my lap near done with the first touch of pen to paper).

    (In interest of disclosure for those who don’t know me, I am the hat behind most of what happens with We Write Poems. A good share of the prompts there are either mine or tweaked by me.)

    I do have a definite bias about what prompts interest me. Personally I don’t much respond to single word prompts, nor even multi-word “wordles”, and classic things like rhymes or syllable counting seem more like forcing content into form (and I’d rather go the other way). Even in the days of RWP I found just one community poem site more than enough to occupy my time and energy. Now, when and if I do respond to prompts I feel some proper obligation to do so within that one WWP community (although hats off to those who write poem after poem with seeming ease).

    The only “cheating” I do is more in the form of using older poems that seem to well address a particular prompt, AND (new personal rule) poems that have not much seen the light of day, community-prompt-wise, so that seems fair to me. One poem to multiple sites? Just hasn’t really been a desire or issue.

    If I were more than one person I think I’d be farther spread out over the broader writing community. There are more than only prompts that deeply interest me. (And color me envy green for those who have the opportunity to attend writing full-time!) Aswell thank you Elizabeth for this “discussion” space (that’s definitely one activity on my expanded list of desires about writing!).

  4. anl4 says:

    I love prompts. They allow me to take the “scenic route” to what I was thinking anyway. When I didn’t even know I was thinking it. And with this kind of “thinking” going on, I need a prompt. What I write often makes me laugh and I like to have fun with it. Maybe when I grow up, I’ll be more serious, but until then I would like a prompt a day. I usually write something, only once in a while I have nothing to say, or other responsibilities get in my way and I don’t have time at all for the computer, and I think he is lonely that day…

  5. Tilly Bud says:

    I like prompts; they are useful. Sometimes I use them; sometimes I don’t. Some of my best poems have come from prompts; and some of my worst.

    I think the key is not to rely on them, but to think of them as a tool. I have relied on them when I’ve been so busy that the muse is crowded out: they give focus. But I always go back to ignoring them for a while. It’s why I’m only an intermittent poster on regular prompt sites. But I’m grateful to have them.

    Mike, I’m impressed that you use the WP prompts for poetry: I haven’t had one poem come from them 🙂

  6. Irene says:

    I totally believe in prompts. The idea of other poets writing to the same prompt /reading the different results gives us a sense that writing is not solitary. What started out for me was Read Write Poem and once that ball got rolling, it’s never say die. Hence I’m happy that We Write Poems filled that gap and continues despite all the “work” required to keep it going, and is still going. I know there’re other prompt sites but I try to focus on a few. I like Brenda’s wordle prompts a lot. I also sometimes try out Donna’s challenging prompts. I’m not adverse to other prompt sites, but it’s not practical to respond to so many, unless I have large pockets of time. I’ve accepted prompts as part of my writing process, because it’s largely due to them that I have grown as a poet.

  7. Elizabeth, I left a long comment this afternoon. It disappeared. I wrote it again. It disappeared again. Am I persona non grata? Are they in your spam box? I don’t think I could bear to try and write it again. Suffice it to say that I like prompts very much Naporimo 2010 got me out of the doldrums and I haven’t stopped writing since!

    • 1sojournal says:

      Viv, there is a long response from you under the last discussion topic, and another under the one before that. You are definitely welcome here and not in my spam collector. I’m hoping those are the responses of which you speak. I also like the prompts, like Tilly Bud and Mike, I like to mix them with other things I enjoy doing. When I first did the prompts, it got rather addictive and I ended up doing at least one a day if not more. And I actually found myself getting anxious about the whole thing. So, I slowed it all down by choosing different things I wanted to do, like the daily stones, that allowed me to pursue my own varied interests, with color and photos. I continue to do that, but also respond to two or three prompts during the week, especially Brenda’s Sunday Whirl, the We Write Poems, and Poets United Thursday Think Tank prompts when I can or feel immediately drawn to them.

      You would never be persona non grata here. You were one of the very first individuals who responded to my poetry and I will never forget that you read my stuff aloud to a roomful of others. You, my friend, are very special,


      • Phew! That’s a relief. No those were not the ones to which I referred. Gone for ever, I fear!

        You have picked my special favourite prompt sites, at least since the demise of RWP, Writers Island and Big Tent. I also love Margo Roby’s tutorial prompts and Poetic Bloomings. Others I dip in and out of, and if the prompt ‘gels’ I go with it. I shy away from sites with so many responses that I couldn’t possibly read all of them, and those that feature chain-letter type awards.

  8. Mary Kling says:

    I enjoy prompts, but I only write to prompts that somehow resonate with me.(Some leave me cold.) There are enough of them out there that I think we all (or at least I) can be selective. I do write some of the sites for the socialization aspect. It is fun to read the poems of people I have come to know and to hear the comments of these same people on what I have written. I think most prompt sites are reciprocal. I comment on your poem, you comment on mine. Originally I did not enjoy wordles at all. Now I look forward to wordles, as they have the uncanny ability to cause me to write poems I might otherwise not have written. Sometimes what comes blows my mind. Anyway, if it were not for the prompt sites, I would not have met most of you who have been responding here. That would have been a loss. Bring on the prompts!

  9. 1sojournal says:

    Thank you again, for a wonderful discussion. I have been very quiet this week, letting things settle down and mostly just listening. And, believe it or not, I’ve actually heard a few things that have been very helpful.


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