Here on NovelMatters we talk a lot about writing prompts, and usually in the context of how we as writers use them to stimulate creativity amongst ourselves. Patti’s post on Wednesday made me think that writing prompts are a way that we can give back to readers.
It’s true as Patti noted that even multi-published authors such as we go through periods in which we believe ourselves to be published only in the past-tense sense of the word, not in the present nor in the foreseeable future.
The gap stretches unimaginably long between the first flirting glance of the idea of the novel in the mind of the writer, and the consummation of that idea with the acceptance by an editor and its implantation in the womb of a contract. And face it, most love affairs with ideas die as virginal as nuns.
But this I have learned: Real writers keep writing. We may stop and sulk and rage and keen with snot running down the sides of our faces. But we love words, and so we keep going.
One way that I’ve been able to keep myself sharp in dry times is to give away my talents. With no thought of building an audience or making a market. I’ve discovered that some of my best audiences, people who are most open and anxious to hear what I have to say about writing, are people who aren’t likely to buy my books. Take people in public senior citizens’ centers, for instance. Or grade school kids.
I believe they—and others—are receptive because everyone has a story, but most people don’t know how to get it out in the open.
I have a standard poetry program that I present to people of all ages (adapting or substituting poems according to the audience.) It’s about what poems are not: Poems don’t have to be rhyming, stanza-structured, long, about noble subjects, flowery, etc.
I present the program with stimulating examples of each. (Poems don’t have to be long: the entire text of “Fleas” is “Adam Had’em.”)
At the end of the program, I produce an elegant container with a lid. I tell the audience that I have brought something mysterious in the container. I am going to release it into the room, and they will write about it, and each one will “see” something different that will become his or her poem. (Once I’ve freed them from the constraints of what they may have thought poetry “had to be,” they feel they can write.)
With a flourish, I remove the lid. People’s eyes light up and they begin to watch things on the screens of their minds. And then they write furiously, or frown, or look away. Not everyone will write. But for those who do, and want to share with the group, the results are wonderful!
Even if you are a beginning writer, there may be audiences in your community who hunger for a speaker who could give them a little inspiration to write, in a non-threatening situation.
Have you done this? Do you use writing prompts with non-writers in this way?
If you haven’t done this, why not give what you know about writing away to people who would be encouraged by it?
Do what Jesus said—give to those who won’t give back to you.
(Oh yeah -- and do it secretly. Guess I blew that.)