On Hating Writing from Prompts

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz Alice Lowe.jpgBy Alice Lowe

You hate writing from prompts, because you’re no good at it, because despite the human brain’s instantaneous capacity to absorb new input and coordinate an appropriate response, you cannot put pencil to paper with any degree of intelligence or coherence. Within seconds of hearing a prompt—prompts like “write about saying goodbye” or “riding the all-night train” or “a pool of blue water”—all potentially interesting and challenging topics—you’re at a loss, stammering internally, increasingly anxious as a fleeting memory or opening line evades you, as any possible direction remains out of reach.

You look around the table—prompt-writing usually takes place in a small group around a table—you look around as the prompt is being read, and at the dropped voice, the sound of the concluding period (or ellipsis) ending the prompt, it’s as if a starting shot has been fired, heads down, pens and pencils moving in notebooks with seeming constancy…

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About Alice Lowe

I am a freelance writer, avid reader and Virginia Woolfophile in San Diego, California. I have published essays and reviews about Virginia Woolf, including "Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction," a monograph in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series published in 2010 by Cecil Woolf Publishers, London. My personal essays have appeared and are forthcoming in numerous literary journals and can be followed on my blog: www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.
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One Response to On Hating Writing from Prompts

  1. Joanne says:

    Alice, I love this essay and would ask your permission to use it as a handout in a workshop I’m leading this month. If yes, please let me know whatever permission/credit line you would prefer me to use on the handout. (looked for your email address to make this a private request but could not find one–sorry!) Thanks for your consideration.

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