Writing prompts are some of the best ways to get your creative wheels, not only turning, but moving forward!
We’re using writing prompts in our Winter Writing Workshops to not only get words moving (which isn’t AS high of a priority when folks have already committed to showing up for the workshop) but also to help “fill out” and explore the writer’s perspective and voice.
Writing offers us an incredible opportunity to find, cultivate, refine, and amplify our voice! Whether or not you have any professional aspirations, I encourage you to consider how it can help you. Writing prompts give us the first little nudge that we might need to get going. And go we must!
I shared an anecdote in the Workshop this weekend that may be interesting for you to read here. It’s the story of an high school class that reached out to famous authors in an effort to get them to visit their school. Only one replied. Kurt Vonnegut told the kids to stop what they were doing and immediately create something and then, tear it into shreds and throw it away. What he conveyed, so powerfully there, is both the imperative and the impermanence of the process. It’s only now that is possible. It’s what we do that matters. It’s yoga!
The first of the yoga sutras says: Atha yoganusasnam. I first learned this as “now begins the practice of yoga.” I have since appreciated it as: “In this moment, we realize the interconnectedness of all,” or “Now, we taste the sweetness of the moment,” or, “Now, we act skillfully,” or, “Do it now!”
I recently read “Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction.“ It is a powerful book of essays by the author and activist, Arundhadi Roy. In it, she speaks to the importance of both her fiction and non-fiction writing. She affirms a colleagues assertion that they are the “two legs” that she walks around on.
In yoga, mindfulness, self-awareness, creative, and psychotherapeutic processes we do something very similar. I usually think of it as balancing the two hemispheres of the brain, or the two sides of the body, or inward and outward facing perspectives, or east and west, or past and future… I could go on and on… these distinct yet clearly connected ways in which we experience and understand our world provide us with everything we need.
With both stories and citations, characters and settings, plot twists and sense impressions… we come to see more clearly. This is how we orient. This is how we make meaning and find our way.
Other techniques for writing
The writing prompts that we used in our workshop gave us the opportunity to look inward as we considered “who is the writer?” We also looked around with “where are they?”
Some participants used their handwriting, others, keyboards, some, their voices to share their words. It was a beautiful and enlightening process of guiding and encouraging each writer down their unique path. The writing prompts gave us a clear path to follow, if we wanted one. We were also free to roam!
Importantly, we also used a timer when working through the writing prompts in this workshop. Two to seven minutes were all that we took/allowed for each. This kind of clear and relatively safe/small container is often an essential part of the process. We use in it mindfulness practice as well.
Mindfulness and writing practices are very complementary and we can consider as another dynamic which may provide balance. If you are doing much more of one than the other, you might consider adding two-four minutes of the other into your process.
If you are unfamiliar with mindfulness practice, we offer several opportunities for instruction and guided practice at Yoga for Mental Health. Checkout our online courses and schedule for the latest or contact us for help finding what you need.
Writing prompts for Winter Writing Workshop Jan. 6, 2024
Here the writing prompts that we used in our Writing Workshop this week and what I wrote. Thank you for reading!
#1: the warm-up (2 minutes)
the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
#2: the writer (4 minutes)
I’m not sure how old she is… a child. She said and scribbled things. There was a competition and she won but knew she shouldn’t have. It wasn’t that good.
There were snippets of impressions that struck at her heart later and she grabbed them and wrote them down… the color of the trees, the movement of the wind and the intensity of the emotion that arose in response to what he said or did or, more often, didn’t say, didn’t do.
It became more clear over time that there was indeed something to say and that within the safe space of the page it could be said. Without the worry of how it would strike them, or how they might strike back, anything could be said on these pages. She explored aspects of her mind and heart and tried out different voices. The tentative poetress, the bold essayist. The storyteller struggled to find her story…
#3: the scene (4 minutes)
Winter. That much is obvious… it’s white upon white with touches of pink and baby blue as the sun just barely peeks over the curve of the earth on its way past. It seems light and magical but the people are quite grim. There’s an intensity in their expressions, and in attempts to conceal them. If not to avoid an interaction with the frost in the air then perhaps to avoid one with the frost that hardens the hearts of those they encounter. What an effort it seems to been to simply step out, bundled and bound, laden with layer upon layer of textiles taken from hearty animals and made from the remains of others.
#4: the purpose (7 minutes)
Scribe of a generation, story of a family… freedom of expression, creativity. A chance to be heard, to be seen… even if by only, and perhaps, most importantly, by self. Past and future self, all wrapped up in this presence. Tied with double knots to people, only a few, and some with fibers that are bound to slip. Threads taken from borrowed bundles and woven into this web. What does it catch? Is it nourishing? Perhaps that is the purpose… to take tiny morsels and preserve them for later. Nourishing mind and heart with memory and possibility. An unseen angle, a twist of phrase, a whole new light and oh, that flavor… where does it come from and how is it possible? With you, that’s how. Shared, sumptuous… joy exploding in my mouth and wonder at it all.