Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing Tools & Writing Prompts

I've mentioned it before that I (at least formerly) am a writer. I don't know how I had the time to maintain the schedule I did while in High School. Classes, after school activities, dancing, reading a ton of books, college research and application, hanging out with friends, and then somewhere during all of that I wrote like a demon. I have so many manuscripts - all of which I would not let see the light of day as an adult - and I was constantly writing short stories, poems, longer "novels" and the likes. Now I work a full time job, I don't have "after school activities" and I can barely keep up with the activities I do have. When did my life suddenly not have enough hours in a day?

Well, I wanted to become a better writer and I wanted to actually write. As soon as I went to college I fell into the longest writers block of my life. I wanted to be like the father in I Capture the Castle and get locked away and be forced to write. But I needed help. I was still struggling to create plots and story lines off the top of my head and I wanted to write better than I did when I was 16.

I picked up Writing Tools: 50 Essential Writing Strategies for Every Writer. The book is a quick read and very much an instruction manual. It details points to be made and literally writing strategies. Some of the strategies were things I already knew just from school while other points I recognized from reading and writing on my own. But overall, it was a great refresher for writing and a book I will very well refer to in the future. For those who are trying to brush up on what they learned in school or are interested in eye opening tips of how writers write or to be a more structured writer this is a great book to pick up and to go back to. Plus, I think the cover is cute.

Another book which I've been using and I will hands down always suggest to people who may have writers block or might be looking into writing in a broader sense of what they usually write is The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life. Not only does this book have another really cute cover and adorable tiny illustrations along the margins but it is really and truly eye opening and I refuse to accept it as anything other than that. For each calendar day (even leap year!) you are given a writing prompt and they certainly vary in size; a poem, a journal entry, to a short story so it's best to make sure you have the time set aside to write. There is a helpful paragraph that kicks off your daily prompt followed by a "For Further Reflection" piece. After this the daily writing prompt is listed. As an example, today's prompt is to open a dictionary of quotations (of which I do not own, so I will head to the internet), choose a quote at random and use it as a springboard for a short story. There is a second part to the prompt to take it a step further and typically, if I am faced with a multiple part prompt I will do what I can depending on how much time I have for the day to write.

Some of the prompts have left me blinking and confused, "How will I write that?" but then I give it a go because, really, it's not like anyone has to see this and it's okay to be really rough with your private writing. The only judge is yourself unless you present it to others. But as I would write out the prompt I'd be left with a sense of satisfaction, "I never thought I could write that. It's definitely not the best writing in the world but... I did it."

This book has been a tremendous help to me and has gotten me writing again. I've actually come up with short story ideas due to these plots and I feel it's helping me grow as a writer. I even just enjoy reading the different plots and seeing what they offer from day to day. Keep in mind, some of the prompts are huge projects and I definitely don't know if I'll ever have the time to complete them, and there is no one telling you to follow the days in order or to do a prompt every day. I do hope to one day go back and redo each of the prompts, maybe every year (if I have the time) and see how my answers change and have grown (if they've grown). But all in all, this is a fantastic book that is really creative and very helpful. So, if you are suffering from the seemingly unending writers block or feel you are stuck in a creative rut of writing the same type of thing over and over, check this book out!

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