Making Writing Prompts Personal
Hey, Daily Posters! We’re on Day Seven of our Zero to Hero challenge: 30 tasks in 30 days to build a solid blogging foundation. It’s never to late to join in! For those already participating, this post on personalizing writing prompts should get you over a few publishing humps.
Every blogger faces it, sooner or later: you feel an itch to publish. You haven’t updated your site in a while. You put on your lucky writing socks, fire up WordPress, flex your fingers, and…
… sit there, staring blankly at the screen. You’re blocked!
(What? Like I’m the only one who has lucky writing socks.)
When you’re blocked, writing prompts are blogsavers. Many bloggers shy away from them because they don’t like the idea of responding to a prompt — what if it doesn’t inspire you? What if the topic doesn’t fit your blog? But before turning off the computer and putting your writing socks back in the drawer, try these six tips for making any writing prompt your own:
A prompt is not an assignment.
Prompts are there to give you a push on days when the words get stuck. They’re not assignments, they’re not requirements, and you don’t need to follow them to the letter. Prompts are there to serve you, and you can use them however you’d like.
Take this (terrible) prompt: Two plus two equals four: yes or no? Sure, you could just answer the question. You also could write about why you love math, rant about why you hate solar calculators, or tell a story about how you met your best friend in 9th-grade algebra. None of those posts answer the question; all of those posts respond to the prompt.
Stop being judgey.
We constantly judge our own ideas, and “I have nothing to write about” is often shorthand for “I think all my post ideas are too stupid to publish.” As we’ve said before:
You read blogs because you’re drawn to the personalities behind them, and that’s why others read yours. If you publish something that’s a real reflection of you — whether it’s an in-depth analysis of a political issue or a series of haiku about your bicycle — your fans will read and like it. Give yourself some credit — people like you, they really do.
Think your response to the prompt is unworthy because it’s not new or original? If it comes from you — in your voice, from your perspective — it’s original. Cut yourself some slack.
Be the anti-prompter.
Maybe your immediate reaction to the prompt was, “ugh, what a dumb prompt,” or “I’d never write about that.”
Great! Now you’ve got something to write about. Tell us why yet another prompt about Miley Cyrus really points to the downfall of culture (or of prompt-writers), or why you will never write about work on your fantasy football blog.
Go with your gut.
If the first thought you had when you read the prompt was something other than, “no, thanks,” run with that, even if it’s completely unrelated to the prompt. (Inspiration, not assignment, remember?) Think about what you’d say if a friend called you and asked you the prompt question — how would that conversation start, and where would it go?
The prompt’s job is to help stoke your creative fires. It doesn’t really matter what your reaction was; it just matters that you had a reaction. Spend a few minutes meditating on that first thought. Maybe the prompt asked you about a favorite meal, and you reaction was, “crap, I forgot to stop at the grocery store.” There are lots of posts in there: posts about mealtime, housework, organizing your life, and more. (Especially once you stop being judgey!)
Pingbacks to bloggers’ responses begin appearing on each of our Daily Prompts fairly soon after the prompt is published. If you’re on the fence with the prompt, read a few. Other bloggers’ words and images are often our greatest source of inspiration. Even if you end up simply reading and commenting, and not writing your own post, you’ve made a contribution to fabric of the blogging community.
Be a mind reader (really).
Sometimes, a prompt is just a tossed-off idea, but often, the person writing the prompt has some idea of the kinds of things s/he would like to see it inspire.
Play mind-reader: what do you think the prompt author wanted you to think about? Did s/he succeed? Do you have something to say about that topic? Okay, the prompt author might not have actually been thinking about larger questions of libertarianism v. social democracy when she wrote the prompt asking if you get along with your neighbors… but maybe she was.
When you’re casting around for something to write about, don’t immediately dismiss writing prompts. If you’re willing to spend a few minutes following a prompt down the rabbit hole, you can come out the other side with a post that perfectly fits you and your blog.
Do you ever write in response to prompts? How do you interpret them? Share!