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Don’t Use A Writing Prompt Unless…

A writing prompt seems like a good idea—but is it really?

You are given a writing based on a writing prompt—let’s say, “Write about something physical you were afraid of as a child?”—and you instantly start to write about the water slide at Camp Algonquin you were sent to as an eight-year old. You are not sure why you are so moved to write this story but you do not hesitate. You write about standing at the top of the slide and about Martha Cocciardi in back of you on the ladder, shouting “Get going, Patty. I want to slide, too” and, at that moment,  you realized there was nothing to be done but to throw yourself at the mercy of fate and hope you survive to enter the fourth grade. You write with some humor and emotional distance suggesting “Oh, silly me! Oh, what little problems we have as children!”

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Over time, your story develops into a memoir—one that you have shaped at every stage of the writing process.

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2 Responses to Don’t Use A Writing Prompt Unless…

  1. marjorie a shrimplin September 11, 2013 at 7:19 AM #

    I recently attempted to write my memoirs and became aware of the reason for my cold chill that ran up my spine when I, today, would hear children screaming in delight as they ran about chasing each other, having a grand old time. I wish to pursue this further, with your help I believe I can get to the bottom of many events and feeling I have today.Here’s with great respect and hope. marjorie

  2. Denis Ledoux September 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM #

    Dear Marjorie,

    I’m pleased that the post struck such a responsive chord for you. Although the memory you dredged up was apparently unhappy, you are doing well to pay attention to your physical reactions as being indicative of an interior response. Memories have a way of dislodging and making themselves felt in our lives until they are dealt with.

    Write with particular attention to detail. Studies have shown that memory writing that emphasized details (“I was wearing the blue dress my grandmother had made for me for my eighth birthday when…”) provided more relief from pain than memory writing that emphasized emotional release (“I hate him.” “She is so awful.”).

    If you have any specific topics you would like for me to cover in this blog, please let me know and I will do my best to write material that is useful to you.

    Keep writing. It will be good for you.

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