Are you one of those writers who collects writing prompts to “get going?” In this category, I am trying my best to get you to eschew writing prompts and be more holistic in how you rev yourself up to write.
Too many writers resort to gimmicks to “get going.” At the workshops, people ask for a topic to write about. Since it is their lives they are writing about, the topic ought to come from themselves—not from a prompt someone else gave them. Not me telling them to write “a summer memory.” Or worse, “you have been abducted by an alien in a space craft. What next?”
Once again, the Memory List
I tell writers to create their Memory List. (If you don’t know what a Memory List is, take a minute right now to go to the link I just gave you. You’ll be grateful to me that you did!) Some writers do a Memory List, but others continue to want a gimmick. The gimmick of choice for many is the writing prompt.
What are Memories?
When you think about your memories, it is obvious that some events do not make it into your sphere of memories while others do. Why is this?
I believe the answer lies in the role of memories in your life. We can say that memories are about the past. While that seems self-evident, it is also false as it is true that memories are dynamically about the present. A memory is a thought that continues to be active—here and now.
The presentness of memories is why a Memory List is so potent. It identifies the memories you are still working with, that still channel your psyche.
Below are a number of posts that will help you to steer clear of dependency on writing prompts. Even if you are not a writing-prompt person, the following articles will help you you in many ways. And…
If you haven’t done so yet, you ought to get your copy of How to Go Beyond Writing Prompts.
A memoir-writing library is a no brainer for a serious writer.
As people are writing a memoir they will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back? Should I use writing prompts or is there something instead of a writing prompt?”
There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of life writing successful. That tool is not a writing prompt: it is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of life writing as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of such a list. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.
Let me tell you about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories).
Your Memory List is always a work in process because the more you remember and jot down, the more you’ll recall. You will return to and rework your list again and again as you write your life stories. In short, it will serve as an excellent writing prompt without being a writing prompt.
1. The Memory List consists of short memory notes (three to five words is sufficient) of people, events, relationships, thoughts, feelings, things—anything—from your past.
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A writing prompt in my estimation leads to nothing. I’m not a great fan of a writing prompt. Sure, they get you to writing something. And many people will insist writing something is better than writing nothing. Well, I’m not so sure of that.