Somehow it isn’t as much fun to spend an hour on the treadmill than it is to sit at our computer and work on an exciting scene in our novel. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to go to the gym. Sometimes the eye candy can prompt more stories. The last time I was in a gym it was 2008, and I ran on the treadmill to the men’s swimming events. Nothing inspired quite as nicely as the swimmers in their suits… But I digress, and these days I tend to exercise outdoors.
The truth is, exercising our muses is just as important as exercising our body. Writing prompts can be a great tool to exercise our muse. Sometimes, we need to get away from the story on which we’re working and stretch our imagination in new directions. Writing prompts can do that, as can flash fiction challenges, changing projects, and other ways of playing in other mental worlds to give our current story a break.
Writing prompts shouldn’t be frustrating, however. So if someone is already blocked or not writing as much or as often as she would like, then writing prompts should be used sparingly. They do make great exercises for writing groups, critique groups, or even different writing circles just to see who comes up with what ideas. No two writers create stories in the same way, so it can be illuminating when a group of authors gets together to play with prompts.
So how can writers use prompts to grow their “writing muscle”?
There are some schools of thought which claim that writers need to get one to three pages of “junk” out of the way before real creation happens. Writing prompts can allow a writer to get a few paragraphs of “stuff” out of the brain, much like journaling, so that work on an already established project can continue. Writers can also use prompts like spot-training to tone specific parts of the writing muscle. Dialogue, action, description, character description…all of them activate different parts of the muse. It makes sense that there would be writing prompts to work on each of them.
I like to play with writing prompts for the reason that there are no expectations attached to them. If a story takes off, great. If I feel like it isn’t quite my best work, that’s no problem. There are no preconceived outcomes, so it really doesn’t matter what the story, scene, or whatever looks like. It’s just an exercise, a prompt, and I can do with it what I like once it’s finished.
If you’re interested in learning more about writing prompts, I hope you check out my new book, Use Your Muse: Writing Prompts for Romance Writers. It’s also available on Amazon.com. In it, I offer 195 writing prompts as well as information about novel writing.