Why I used to hate writing prompts.

This was my prize for being runner-up in the @FaberAcademy #quickfic competition on 13/02/15

Up until last month I really hated writing prompts.  I found it baffling why, if you say you like writing you would need to be given prompts; it’s like saying you love composing… if only you could think of some notes to put together.  Or saying you love food but need some ideas of what to shove in your mouth.

For me writing is and has always been a process of purging my feelings, exorcising demons and occasionally capturing starry-eyed moments.  If I am not brave enough to put myself in the story I’ll hide it in a metaphor, shove it into a foreign country and unpick my misery through the mouths of imaginary people. On Mars.  I’ll fling it far enough a way so it feels unfamiliar and then read it back and be comforted by the affirmation it provides.  There’s an analogy here with lying on your arm so it falls asleep but we’ll gloss over that one.

It’s an elaborate form of talking to myself and trying out answers, and I’ve always got more than enough to say.  It’s therapeutic, and pathological and so therefore it is a waste of my time riffing off three random items I’ve pulled out of my arse (figuratively speaking).

But I’ve had a go at writing prompts a couple of times over the last few weeks and I’m happy to completely backtrack.  Especially as I just won a lovely book in the process.  Thank you Faber Academy.

The writing prompts have given me unexpected ciphers for my imaginings and because they’re normally quite short it’s fun – like a game.  I’m still purging these snappy little feelings but the prompts are giving me unexpected, contained, and fresh settings for their release.  Narratives don’t have to perfecty fit; like “Light”, my short story below I had been thinking about how sleep is an escape mechanism, except it isn’t a real escape.  The story is nothing to do with aliens sending morse code.

So if you haven’t tried writing prompts before, I recommend you give them a try.  Keep an eye on Faber Academy’s Twitter and look out for the Friday Quickfic Competition; it is a brilliant starting point because it is quick, with just four hours between prompt and deadline, and a manageable 250 word limit.

You could write more words than that banging out an impassioned response on a web forum on your lunch break.  Why not try channeling those feelings into some fiction instead?


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