The above photo shows four of the many boxes I have stored in the closet in my writing office. There are many boxes in this closet, and in the office there are additional files of materials that I have accumulated over the years--mostly for the purpose of providing inspiration for my writing or as a record of things that I have written.
There is probably little of any real monetary value stored in this room, but there is a wealth of ideas and thought provoking information to be found here. News clippings and magazine articles, photos, scribbled thoughts, odd objects, and items of personal memories are all parts of my treasure. Whatever I have kept because it somehow made me think of something to write, I have filed in a special place or tossed into a box or a drawer to be filed away at a later time.
The way I see it is that in my lifetime there is no way I could ever possibly run out of writing prompts. If I find myself saying that I cannot think of anything to write about, what I really should be admitting is that I'm too lazy or not motivated to write at this moment. Everything is a potential prompt for writing. You just have to use your imagination and ask some questions.
Let me try a little exercise to illustrate how prompts are everywhere. I'm at my desk and look to my left where I see a burgundy stapler. Reaching over to pick it up, I realize it is a heavy metal stapler that could potentially kill somebody--there's a murder mystery here. I look at the bottom and see it was made by the Bates General Binding Corporation. I wonder what else they make and what is the history of this company? Who designed the stapler, how is it made, and who made the decision to use the burgundy color. This company is in Northbrook, Illinois. What's it like there? What is the history of this city? The stapler was manufactured in Taiwan. What is the factory like? Who are some of the workers who handled this stapler while it was being manufactured and what are their lives like?
|Potentially deadly stapler with a long and complex history.|
These questions and contemplations could go on and on--I think you get the idea. You could write an entire book about this stapler or come up with countless articles and stories about it. And that was just the first thing I saw on my desk. As cluttered as my desk tends to be, I potentially have a lifetime of writing at arms reach.
Writing prompt exercises are fine, but where do those come from? They come from another writer's imagination, that's where. What are you doing to stretch your own imagination? Look around you, pick common things up and examine them in detail. Think about them and ask questions. There are stories in everything, in everyplace, and in everybody. It's up to the writer to make those stories come to life in an interesting way.
The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge often elicits comments like, "I don't know if I can think of that many ideas for a whole month". This is why it's a Challenge! It's impossible to run out of ideas, though it's not inconceivable to run out of steam. Last year I began to get a bit weary at the midway point of the challenge. When I reached the letter "n" I decided that I could think of nothing to write about. That's when the light bulb came on in my head. I wrote a bit of flash fiction called "Nothing" that was rather well-received and this recharged my motivation.
If writer's block is causing you to stumble, stop and take a breather. Think. Ponder. Ask questions about why you are experiencing this barrier to progress. Take a walk, listen to music, watch a movie, or talk to a child. And if you need to do some exercises with writing prompts then let me suggest going for the practical prompts that are right there in your life. What you write about is an extension of who you are. Why shouldn't the writing exercises you do be a part of who you are as well.
How do you overcome writer's block? Do you sometimes use prompts as writing exercise? What are some of your favorite prompts?