In the summer of 1991, I attended a camp for artistic expression of all sorts — I had applied and entered for writing and so I took a number of different writing courses of the creative variety. One of the things that we did nearly every day was to work with different writing prompts to inspire our writing. On one morning we were handed photos from magazines (one each) and on another day we were instructed to go outside and just write based on on what we saw out there. There was even one morning when one of the professors simply said, “Thirty seconds — write!” That didn’t seem like so much of a proper writing prompt as much as it was a direct order from our commander!

There are many valuable things that we can do with writing prompts. For example, when a completely blank screen is staring us down and we just need to get our creative thoughts moving, a writing prompt can be amazing. When the writing teacher yelled out “thirty seconds — write!” I had a good reaction in that I wrote a story about a person who had to write about something in a mere thirty seconds and he spent the entire time questioning the nuances of the thirty seconds and how it should be properly spent instead of actually writing anything.

When I got the magazine clipping it was a photograph of a man wearing a suit and, being the youthful idealistic individual that I was, I wrote about how jaded and unkind this business individual must be, not caring about the needs or wants of others and only caring about his own income and the things that he could buy with his article.

Finally, when I went outside and I just wrote, I write a narrative poem about the tree in front of me and the joy that it brought people. It was certainly the shortest of all the writing and the least character driven but it was, in my thought, a bit inspired.

Yet we cannot let the prompts overrun our writing. On the personal blog site LiveJournal, for example, there is a daily writing prompt which is good for occasional use, but you cannot let the writing prompt become the only thing that you write — our lives as writers must involve regular writing but it should not be all about writing prompts. Should you wish to be inspired by prompts, there are many web sites out there that let you get a start as well as multiple books on the subject.

Our favorite home to blogs, WordPress, offers its own daily prompt on their own 2011 Challenge where they hope to inspire people who don’t write entries often to try to do at least at least once a day — or once per week — in 2011. Their daily writing prompts can be found here and you can sign up for the challenge (seemingly only for WordPress blog writers but surely anyone who writes a blog can participate) just by using the tag postaday2011 or postaweek2011. I would be quite interested to see what kinds of blog entries might be inspired by this challenge.