Friday, September 6, 2013

On the Value of Writing Prompts

Sometimes when I feel that I have nothing to say, at least, nothing to say based on some original idea of my own -- which more often than not would have been inspired by some real life experience, something I observed in the course of my daily life, as opposed to something I read -- but wish to write something anyway, I use a writing prompt: a picture, or a quote, to comment on.

That is what I did in the previous post, and that is what I plan to do for the next couple of posts after this.

Well, I was thinking about this last night while contemplating a subject for a post, because I've had two quotes saved in two separate drafts which I had transcribed a few days earlier from my paper journal, intending to construct a future post around it, but have yet to begin my response. I looked at it last night, but suddenly found myself feeling really sleepy and unable to focus, so I decided to just turn off my computer, and called it a night. But I did sit outside for awhile and wrote in my paper journal, basically coming up with the rough idea for this post, basically being the pros and cons of using a quote as a writing prompt for a post.

Sometimes I begin my posts with a quote, using it as a source of inspiration, a theme to construct my post around, which could go in a number of different directions.

Firstly, I may write a commentary based on the subject matter of the quote, which could either be an interpretation of what it means to me. Or:

Secondly, it could be an expansion of its meaning, basically using the quote as a foundation to build off of, providing additional information related to its topic that goes far beyond the original information provided.

Thirdly, I may use the quote more loosely to write about anything that comes to mind in response to it, basically being a creative free association that may not actually have much to do with its original meaning or topic. In other words, a quote about freedom, may lead to a post about owls in the wild.

Or, I may simply add the quote afterwards, simply because it relates to the subject matter already written, in which case, it would not have been used as a writing prompt at all, but was added more so for stylistic purposes. But that particular use is not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is about using a quote as a writing prompt for a post.

But then sometimes I have my doubts, thinking that perhaps, at least in terms of the first three reasons given, no further words are really needed, that the quote is good enough in itself, that extra words are extraneous, superfluous, and totally unnecessary. So why even bother?

Well, the main problem with that attitude, is that it could prevent most things from ever being written.

Does this really matter? Does anything on this blog really matter? If you look at most literature, from books, to magazine articles, to newspapers, to blog posts, a lot of it is totally unimportant, totally frivolous and trivial, that had you never read it, you'd be no worse off. But then again, maybe you'd be no better off, either.

Words. Sometimes they uplift you, inspire you, and inform you. Other times, their just a way to fill up your time, to entertain and to distract, to give you a glimpse of something else, something new and different than what your ordinarily see in front of you or think about, a bit of intellectual variety, a glimpse of another's life, another's thoughts; but you could take it or leave it, it doesn't really matter, either way, you're no better or worse off for having read it; we're just like two ships passing in the wind, converging for a brief moment in time, and then we're gone.

I waste time wondering if there is any point to what I write, if there is any significant value in any of it to anyone, or if it's all just extraneous and superfluous and totally unnecessary. And this hesitation and existential questioning of my life as a blogger (yes, I still hesitate to call myself a writer), prevents me from writing more than I do. I could write a lot more here, but in all honestly, without getting paid, I see no point in knocking myself out over it.

Yet, at the same time, I don't care, I do it because I like to write, and writing regularly is a good way to improve your writing skills. I think of it as a gift, something I do from the kindness of my heart, to give freely of myself without expecting anything back in return. It's an equal exchange of time, I write, you read, and that is enough. But is it really? This is why blogs don't last. Because, if a person is really talented they branch out, into more serious literary endeavors, writing books, making money; and if they do keep a blog, it is a supplement to their main writing, not the whole kit and caboodle. People who are bloggers, but not writers, will probably eventually give it up, because a person can only give so much of themselves without ever getting anything back.

But anyway, getting back to the original topic concerning the value of writing prompts. In this case, whether or not using a quote as the inspiration for a post is a good or bad idea, I see absolutely no harm in doing so. If you write something, and you don't like it, you can always delete it, or not publish it in the first place. But, if you want something to write about it, and a picture or a quote caught your attention enough to want to share it with others and to add a commentary of your own, go for it. The only way you'll know if it was worthwhile or not, is if you give it a try, see how it goes. The worst that could happen is that nobody reads it, or people read it and don't like it. Either way, not the end of the world.

*This is post 3 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge. On an unrelated note, it rained today! It was actually the most torrential monsoon storm we've seen in my area of the city all year. It was awesome! I was out in it too, collecting rain water. It was like being on a white water rapids; very exhilarating! It also cooled down the temperatures into the eighties, which is always most welcome, considering the original pre-storm high was around 102. And so it should be a really nice night tonight, except for the mosquitoes, of course, and I'm really looking forward to it, and maybe I'll write something else here later tonight, in the midnight hour, or if not it'll be sometime later tomorrow. So see you then.

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