“Write about three things when you were 16,” the writing prompt urges, but you wonder, “What three things when I was 16?” You feel no insistence. Instead, you turn to How to Go Beyond Writing Prompts and peruse its suggestions. You find in the Teen Years section, “How did you describe ‘best friend’ then? Did you have one? Describe this person and state what it was like to be with this person. If you did not have a best friend, describe how that felt.”
This is not a writing prompt!
THE TROUBLE WITH WRITING PROMPTS
Writing prompts with their closed-ended questions tend to lead to isolated stories.
They are not, by and large, searching for the meaning lost in the morass of your memory, for the contact lens that is lost in the grasses of your psyche.
It’s not that writing prompts may not sometimes be pleasurable to write or that a person may not enjoy sharing them or be grateful for a recaptured memory. It’s that they come to you from someone else.
The problem is that they are not from within the writer’s story, from within the writer’s lifestory.