I’ve been sitting in front of my computer now for several hours. I have been successful in finding ways to distract myself from actually writing this week’s blog all that time. Some of those distractions included running errands, clearing out the dishwasher, and chatting with friends on the phone.

This is fairly atypical for me. I usually have more than one idea that I want to write about. Lord knows, there are things that need to be written about!  Politics, the environment, the economy, physical ailments, the sorry state of health care, extreme weather, ageism, taxes, unions and strikes to list but a few. And I have opinions on all of them. There seems to be no end of inspiration!

Sources of Inspiration

I typically find my muse during the week. Something pisses me off and I get righteous. I find the firebrand in me just aching to spit out my point of view and eviscerate whomever I am mad at. This week, however, I couldn’t pull up the energy.

Other times, I go for a drive and just let my thoughts wander. I find I am having internal conversations that are only mildly distracting to my ability to stay on the road and drive safely. Today I was listening to David Sedaris talk about his sister’s death by suicide. He is a brilliant satirist, but I found I had to pay attention to “how” he was organizing his piece rather than actually listening to it. There just seemed to be too much grief.

The Discipline Needed to Write

Sometimes the truth is I just don’t want to write. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Indulging my inner toddler has given me middling results over the years. There have been occasions where it has been liberating. But those occasions, while memorable, have been few and far between. Most of the time, the ranting results in my resorting to self-soothing behaviors like eating massive amounts of carbs or watching re-runs.

The actual discipline of writing is all about starting and then getting out of my way. Back in the day when I wrote long-hand, it required that I have a clean sheet of paper and a favorite pen. I would then transfer the written word to type using my mother’s portable Royal typewriter. I now am losing my skill at writing cursive (totally illegible!) and experience occasional days where the arthritis in my wrists makes it uncomfortable to work the keyboard for too long. There just seems to be too much effort.

Welcome to Assistive Technology

I notice more and more of my friends are using the Google Assistant or the Apple version (“Hey Siri!”) to voice their commands and ask their questions. This works well for the short queries made, but the more challenging “Speech-to-text” can be befuddling and result in extra work having to be done. Truth be told, it is also very irritating to be shouting into a hand-held object to find the answer to a question.

When I am creating a piece, there is a rhythm and flow to my thoughts and how they appear on the screen. This is very different than when I am verbally extemporizing (and occasionally pontificating). Even with the vast improvements in speech-to-text, I remain untrusting and at odds with the technology. There just seems to be too much to learn.

Barriers and Blocks

Writing has never been a chore for me. Everything about it has captured my interest at one time or another. Alphabets are particularly enticing. Who came up with the idea?  And why do some alphabets have more letters?  And why are they drawn the way they are drawn?  Typeface is another furtive lust of mine. Serif, sans serif, italicized, weight, condensed vs. expanded. The artistry and visuals all just seduce me!

But in order for this magic compilation of letters to turn into words and be useful to you, dear reader, I need to put these elements in specific order!  Back in the day, this was painstakingly done using clay tablets, ink and parchment or type trays for printing presses. Now all that is needed is downloading apps and uploading data!  There just seems to be no end to how it will evolve!

Deadlines as Motivation

My commitment to this blog is that I produce one piece a week. I have succeeded in doing that now over several years. This is surprising to me, as I had early on inculcated the notion that I never followed through on anything. At this point, I keep doing it because I am rather proud of the fact that I have been doing it for so long.

On the other hand, if I were doing this for someone else or because my “job” required that I do it, I suspect I would be both resentful and stressed, caught between wanting to keep my promise and trying to negotiate with that inner toddler. There just seems to be no way to tame that kid.

Writing Prompts that Work

So, at last, here are the prompts I promised:

Write about something you heard or said that made you feel an unfamiliar or uncomfortable feeling (e.g., opera, hip-hop, okra, flan).

Write about someone/something that inspired you/angered you (e.g., humans being kind to animals/humans being unkind to one another).

Write about some injustice you experienced that has no happy ending (e.g., being overlooked or ignored).

Write about the space between each breath you take.

Write what falls out of your head, then throw it away and write about what is really in your heart.

There seems to be a blog at the end of all of this.

4 responses to “Writing Prompts That Really Work!”

  1. nan sullivan Avatar
    nan sullivan

    too much to learn-no end to how it will evolve. such a massive truth we all shall conquer in our myriad ways. love this

  2. B. Lynn Goodwin Avatar

    I like your prompts. Don’t know if you can share this, but there are more of them, posted monthly on the Writing Advice page at http://www.writeradvice.com. Read them and see what appeals.

  3. Timothy Gieseke, MD, CMD Avatar
    Timothy Gieseke, MD, CMD

    I never thought of myself as a writer, but was inspired about 10 years ago, by Dr. Louise Aaronson. In addition, I became a member of the CALTCM WAVE editorial board, where a good friend has edited what I submit, prior to it’s posting on google docs for the board to further edit. We publish twice monthly. My inspiration usually comes from articles I’ve read in medical journals or from something that happens during the course of patient care, that is potentially generalizable. My passion is to improve the healthcare provided older adults. My incubator for ideas is the early morning hours when I typically have trouble sleeping. At those times, the elements of the article become visible and my word processor just flows the next morning. From hating English composition in school, I’m shocked at how much of changed. I now find writing to be something I highly value. For readers of this blog, I encourage you to “step into the water” and have a friend join you. Tim Gieseke MD

  4.  Avatar

    Taking the step is my challenge!

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