Three Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts for Idle Fiction Writers, Part 2

I had so much fun writing that first group of writing prompts, I had to do it again. If you end up using one, let me know how it goes.

  1. Rejecting Community: A young woman tires of civilization and retires to a remote house in the woods. Her only contact with the outside world are the sparse email communication she has with her company, for which she conducts research. She begins to find herself, as she struggles with and contemplates her solitude. But all that is about to be interrupted by an old friend who tries to find her. Do the two have bad blood between them? What is their connection?
  2. Zoom Call Love Affair: Married co-workers fall in love over a series of video conference calls for work. They develop a secret sign language they use to communicate during each call. But what happens when a co-worker figures it out and tries to blackmail them?
  3. Honeymoon Amidst the Ruins: While on their honeymoon in Chile, a young couple on a hike discovers some old ruins. But when they explore, they realize the ruins are less than a century old. Why would someone recreate antiquity in the jungle?
Three Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts for Idle Writers

If you’re stuck at home during this crisis with nothing to do but to contemplate the yawning void that lurks beyond the known universe, here are three writing prompts that might inspire you to put ink to page.

  1. When a woman loses the family farm to unmanageable debt, the new owner offers her a chance to win it back. What form does that offer take and is it worth it?
  2. In the spirit of sibling rivalry, three brothers compete for the attention of the town’s richest bachelorette. But unbeknownst to each other, only one of them truly cares for her. Who do the other two truly love? And how is the first brother thwarted?
  3. Her husband is dying. But before he dies, he asks her to perform a terrible act of vengeance for a wrong done to him twenty years before. The target of this vengeance has returned to town to visit the husband, not realizing that he harbors such bitterness against him.

On John Lee Clark’s Essay “Tactile Art”

In the October 2019 issue of Poetry Magazine, essayist John Lee Clark rights about the nature of tactile art from the blind perspective. It was an illuminating piece that had me thinking long after I’d put down the journal. Essentially, he writes about what’s important in a tactile art piece to a blind person and what elements are unnecessary (but often included because our culture thinks as sighted beings). For example, he talks about the importance of heft. Imagine a plastic toy tank. For sighted persons, the visual experience is enough to convey the ominous, dangerous menace a tank represents. But for a blind person, the weight of that light plastic toy is more important and conveys none of the same menace. If you get a chance to read Clark’s poignant essay, I recommend it.

Writing and Community

For years, I’ve done all of my creative writing in isolation. None of my close friends have been writers. I’ve rarely bounced ideas off of other creative writers. I’ve certainly never collaborated with anyone. On a few occasions, I’ve found myself in a fiction writing critique group, but these have never lasted for some reason (and I haven’t always got the benefit out of them that I had expected to get). It has been like working in a vacuum.

But this year, I have made more of an effort to attend a poetry workshop group in the area. The poets in this group range in expertise, and there are certainly some good minds that challenge me and my writing. But I’ve also begun to reap the benefit of just being around fellow writers who are living many of the same challenges, struggles and joys as I do.

I’ve gained insight into the kinds of journals these poets are getting published in, how they are getting their books published, and which conferences they go to and the benefits they reap from those experiences. Although many of these elements seem small, they add up to a lot, in my estimation.

Whatever your passion might be, I’ve come to realize that being around others with your same passion is a healthy, important and possibly even a vital experience if you can get it.

creative writing and anxiety

Creative Writing and Anxiety

A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend about the intense anxieties I get at night over the safety of my family. He said, “Yeah, that’s the curse of the artist, your active imagination.”

And after making thousands of connections in my creative writing, I finally made this one with my own life. What do we do in creative writing if not make surprising and unlikely connections (especially writing science fiction and poetry)? And the more I exercise the connection-making beast, the more easily it goes to work on my own life, especially at night when all the other noises of the day die down.

To be fair, imagination can bring you positive vision as well as anxiety. Yes, I worry over the worst possible scenarios, and believe me, imagination can create some nearly ridiculous and impossible scenarios. I also have grand (sometimes impossible) dreams of the future. And after a few years, neither of these will please your spouse.

Anxiety can be difficult to live with, but I’ve come to believe that someone has to be the worrier. Someone has to stay up at night thinking through these possibilities, so you’re not blind to the evil of the world. But it’s also good to have a partner or friend who can help you balance these fears with reality.

And as much as I believe in the capacity for evil among us, I believe in the possibility that our better natures will prevail too.

Let’s Grow Our Poetry Culture

I’m interested in helping poetry to become popular again. I’m not referring to slam-style poetry (which I value), nor am I including the Instagram poets (which I consider trite; sorry guys). I want to see a renewal of non-academicians attending poetry readings. I want to see people discussing poetry in everyday conversation, without someone flinching or grimacing. On the flip side, I’m not naive enough to think we’ll be rivaling film and television. People are still going to flock to the latest Avenger movie (the market power of the Marvel franchise is an entirely different discussion, in fact). But I do think it’s reasonable to expect a poetry revival of sorts.

People need to be taught how to read and experience poetry again. Is something going wrong in the schools in this regard? (I’m not sure.) While I don’t want to see a dumbing down of poetry, I do think the art form can be made more accessible by better educating potential readers. There is so much to be gained by a renaissance in poetry’s popularity. Poetry is not only fuel for the soul, but it quietens the mind and heightens one’s sense of observation and critical thinking. Couldn’t we use a little more of that?

Talking Books at North Texas Book Festival

This past weekend, I attended the North Texas Book Festival and had the pleasure of interacting with new readers and fellow authors. These are always some of the best conversations.

The North Texas Book Festival is held annually in Denton, Texas. Home to the University of North Texas, Denton supports a vibrant cultural life of arts, music and literature. The morning of the festival, a big thunderstorm rolled through. Authors like myself dashed from our cars with our carts of books, signs and giveaways, hoping to get  it all safe and dry to the venue. The rain kept many away in the morning. But as the sky cleared, festival traffic picked up, and I had the chance to meet with some of the local book nerds.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I hope to be back in Denton next year.