New Year, New Focuses- and an opinion on a blog.

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Writing

Hello, and welcome to a new year at “A Teacher’s Muse”. This is, of course, the time of year that many people make resolutions ranging from the overly grandiose to the microscopically simple.  I am trying my best to hopefully fall somewhere in the middle.

Every school year I make goals so that I have something to measure my year against. They are called S.M.A.R.T. goals, and I am sure that the name is attributed to someone outside of my school district. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, SMART goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Targeted.

One of my goals this year was to interact with other blogs more frequently. More specifically, I want to have a blog post a month that is sparked by another person’s blog. Today I am doing that post.

A recent re-post at Courage 2 Create, by Ollin Morales (New posts will arrive on the 7th according to his blog), touches on the topic of writing prompts within a larger overall topic on staying true to your writing schedule. Over the past year I have read Ollin’s blog, and he gives some really great insight into the writing life. Of all the posts I have read, this was the first one that I disagreed with, in part.

Ollin equates a writing prompt to a “microwave” for your ideas; that the resulting work will be “tasteless” and not of any real value. Now, I want to say, first, that the rest of what he says in that section is about giving your brain room to roam, that sitting still for a while and having your brain think freely is useful and that you shouldn’t use a prompt as a Band-Aid, I agree with wholly. Where I feel Ollin has missed the mark is in the value he places on the prompts as a writing tool.

Letting the mind percolate is great; letting the mind stagnate is not. As a writer it is important to write and to exercise that ability to write. There are times that, for myriad of reasons, we just can’t get that thinking to result in written work achieved on a project. In these situations I equate writing prompts to something we do with our track team at the high school. When we sense that the students are a bit burnt on a normal practice we will let them spend a day playing basketball. Little do they realize that they are still doing the sprints and the plyometric type exercises that we would have them do regularly. They are still working out, but it doesn’t feel like it. A writing prompt can do this for you as well. Especially if a prompt lies outside a current project’s focus. It can allow the mind to look in a different direction for a small moment, even if it is for ten minutes or so. There is nothing that says that everything you put to paper needs to be for submission or publication. It can also just be for your own sanity. Besides, you never know when a writing prompt may lead to a larger work. It would be a shame to leave that behind.

Whether you use writing prompts or not is up to you. Maybe you like them, and they aid you when needed. It is also possible that you eschew them, and that is fine as well. I use them from time to time to get my brain to work in a different way, and my writing toolbox has gotten bigger as a result. Just be sure not to become dependent on them, and to abandon them when a true spark is ignited. We wouldn’t want to miss out on that opportunity either.

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