To prompt or not to prompt?

So today I’m on about writing prompts. Everyone gets stuck and needs an idea occasionally. I’ve recently done some writing and posting on the blog using photos as prompts They were mostly just quick little shorts, impressions, an opening scene or a line of poetry. A friend has taken a series of walking around her neighborhood close-ups. I pick one and write a paragraph. It is a lot of fun to look at a photo and imagine what is going on, or fantasize about something going on.

It was so much fun I bought a mostly blank book of 300 Writing Prompts. And I hate it.

Maybe it’s that it feels too much like an assignment. Those never went well in school. Telling me to write about a something is the same as emptying my mind of everything I ever knew or thought about that something. And there sits this book—that I paid money for—chiding me for not doing my homework.

But I’d rather blame it on the suggestions. They are very “un-prompting.” The questions or sentences of prompts I’m finding are almost uniformly things I’d never write about and will never write about. Are, in fact, things that I can’t imagine anyone making themselves write or read about. Here are a few examples from the book and from some online free eBooks and what’s wrong with them:

  1. “Tell me a story.” —Seriously? That’s not a prompt, that’s a blank page. If I already had a story, I wouldn’t be looking at prompts.
  2. “How can Facebook be even better?” —Better? I’m sure someone must have opinions on this, (because every time Facebook tries to improve itself plenty of people tell them that no, that wasn’t the way) but it ain’t me.
  3. “Make up a really awkward description or ad for an online dating site.” —Sure, because I really want to practice my awkward writing.
  4. “Recall a memorable haircut or hairstyle you have had, given, or witnessed.” —Uh, what?

I know; you’re going to tell me I’m missing the point. “No one has to read it. It’s just for your own benefit. It will give you real ideas.” Sorry. I just have a hang-up that real writing has an audience. That I should write something that someone, even if that someone is only me, would actually bother to read. And if I can’t even interest myself, then there’s no way writing about it is going help.

Unless I lie! That’s it! Even though I’m more of a non-fiction writer, I could take them all as fantasy prompts, and pretend like I cared and…and…nah.

I’m going to just stick with photo prompts for a while longer.