Careful Writing

To me, the idea of writing prompts is both curious (on the one hand) and slightly unnatural (on the other). I suppose some writers depend on such devices to spur their creative juices. WordPress even offers a daily prompt to facilitate bloggers who are stuck. At the end of 2013, the editors at WordPress produced a PDF file titled 365 Days of Writing Prompts.


A Google search for “writing prompts” yields more than ten million results. Many of those come from writing-teacher blogs and online workshops. Others have been provided by schools, colleges and how-to professional resources organized to help individuals develop career goals and more ably compete by acquiring better writing and/or conversational tools. There are writing prompts from past College Board exams to help future test-takers know what might be expected on an SAT test.

The range of writing prompts is probably as varied as writing itself. Sometimes writing prompts are fanciful:  write a fairy tale where the princess turns into a frog. Other writing prompts are more mundane:  describe the steps required to power up your computer. The key, apparently, is to train your mind for spontaneous, off-the-cuff writing readiness. (As I previously suggested, I think developing this skill carries over into conversation as well.)

For me as a writer, I discovered a long time ago that writing prompts often leave me cold. I do understand the need to stretch one’s writing muscles. That may mean a technical writer takes time out from technical writing to compose a poem (or vice versa). Both the technical writer and the poet will benefit from employing words differently than his/her normal occupation. That aspect (stretching one’s writing muscles) is a good thing, I think.

Part of me, though, rebels at the idea of writing prompts. With all the noise (figuratively) already putting our world into information overload and exhaustion, do we really need 25,000 additional blogs contributing 500-1000 words answering this writing prompt … write your perception of last night’s argument with the neighbor or co-worker … or any other? (In reality, there are many more than the 25,000 daily posts I’ve posited.) WordPress says more than 409 million people view 14.5 billion blog pages each month. Impressive numbers!

Here’s an interesting chart from 2012. Even with this visual aid simplifying the stats, they’re astounding … or for someone suffering information overload, thoroughly staggering!

How many writers from this above infographic take their cues via daily writing prompts? I suppose it would be impossible to measure. In my opening paragraph, I said I find the idea of writing prompts curious. This is what I mean. How many of those posts would actually happen sans a writing prompt? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest posts resulting from writing prompts are any less valid or worthy or brilliant simply because of their humble genesis.

ASIDE:  It might also be argued that my post today wouldn’t be possible apart from the existence of writing prompts. (Am I in fact taking advantage of their existence to lobby against them?) This point is warranted.

When I write though, I want to care about what I’m writing. I find I’m usually a better writer when I bring my passion to the subject. That’s where my first paragraph observation (about writing prompts seeming slightly unnatural) comes in. As I get older, I appreciate silence more and more. Silence has the ability sometimes to speak more eloquently than the printed or spoken word. May I always choose silence over babble.

I acknowledge I’m making a general argument against the practice of daily blogging. When I made the commitment last year to post a daily blog, my focus was to establish a discipline for writing everyday. (I didn’t require writing prompts, though I’ve used them a couple times to feed my competitive drive. Then I got bored.) Nowadays, however, my brain throws out the requisite question:  am I contributing to the din, the mental exhaustion brought on by words piled upon words piled upon more words? Further, I think the same question could apply to publishing books and other printed matter (not just blogs), as well as addressing the 24/7 news and entertainment available to us via broadcast and streaming.

In the end, it comes down to sifting through all the words published (in all forms) to locate those unique nuggets which have meaning for me … or for you. Words (no matter whose they are) shouldn’t be just another heap of dung contributing to the din. For me, I know I would continue to write even if it weren’t through posting to a daily blog. I write because I can’t not write.

But I purpose to write carefully, knowing my words must have meaning (passion) for me … and I’m hopeful my passion carries over to readers. As with a two-way mirror, blogging provides both blogger and reader a unique vantage point. This blogger (me) lays words down; whether readers agree or disagree, the resulting feedback enhances discussion. I appreciate each reader. Thanks for honoring me with your generous attention.

Comments Are Always Appreciated!