It’s been an uneventful week here in the Martin household. A neighbor who recently moved away paid a visit and there was much hilarity on our patio. Cathy attended her first meeting of The Daughters of the American Revolution. Lettuce and kale and spinach are producing like crazy in our garden. Cathy and I had a lovely Saturday brunch with a new MFA student and her partner, and then Cathy found the perfect dress for a wedding in late October. A pleasant week but nothing noteworthy.
From time to time, our writing lives are like that. We have the time and initiative, but when we face the blank page or screen, for whatever reason the words won’t come. We stare off into space, we check email, we browse the web. We do everything we can to keep ourselves from having to admit the well has run dry, and we’re not writing.
Sometimes we need a little nudge, something to get ourselves into motion. Here, then, are a few prompts that you can easily apply to your fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.
Is it just me, or is that weird? Take an inventory of your quirks, or if you can’t stand to face them, take note of someone else’s oddity, or make one up. Choose a quirk and let that open a piece of writing.
I just can’t leave it alone. Obsessions eventually demand action. What better way to open a piece than by getting things into motion by considering the pressures and pleasures of someone’s obsession.
It’s simply extraordinary. Find the memorable—the story from the news, the interesting object, the unforgettable image. Put it on the page and see where it might lead.
I can’t believe I said that. I expect you’ve been there, those moments where you say something and then later, reviewing the events of the day, you find yourself shaking your head with regret, knowing that what you said unintentionally caused someone harm. Or maybe you realize your mistake at the time, but there’s just no way to make amends. Why not open a piece with that moment of offense?
If only I could. We all have those moments we wish we could rewrite, those moments that keep us up at night because we’re so ashamed of what we did or said, or of what someone perhaps did to us. These moments of regret can often lead to interesting writing.
We don’t have to tolerate stagnant writing periods. We merely have to put the words in motion. Any spark will do. Feel free to find your own triggers, especially if none of the ones I’ve offered work for you.