I’ve been trying to avoid writing prompts as I do the 500 words challenge. There are a few reasons why; none of them are really all that great, and I imagine that I’ll give in and use a writing prompt at some point, but I’m not ready for that yet.
One reason to avoid writing prompts is the nature of the challenge itself. I want to see how long I can do without having a writing prompt to give me something to write about. Can I actually come up with thirty one things in a row, enough that I feel passionate enough to write 500 words about them? (This is not what the challenge is about, as far as I know, but it’s how I interpret the challenge for myself.) A writing prompt is a concession to that struggle for relevance.
Another reason is to avoid exposure. Most writing prompts talk about things that are personal in nature: “How did you feel about your father? Describe your first pet. Who was your best friend when you were twelve?”
For one thing, a lot of those questions would expose my identity to strangers, and I’m not comfortable with that. I prefer being a cypher; I like preserving my anonymity. (Not just my name, but who I actually am, what makes me tick inside.)
I talk about the things that drive me, to be sure, but I usually discuss them fairly clinically, without a whole lot of the emotion that’s actually raging inside my soul; when you read something that I’m passionate about, you tend to not be able to see the passion itself. (You can probably tell that the passion is there, but the passion is shielded.)
So writing prompts tend to create a lot of introspection; I use introspection (whenever I use the word “I”) but I don’t want to actually show you my soul.
(There are lots of reasons for this, but the biggest reasons are that it’s not that interesting and you don’t want to see it; most people want to see someone else’s soul from a sense of wanting permission to invade someone else, to see their dirty little secrets. I don’t want you to see my secrets. I want you to see something that’s admirable, something to aspire to.)
A third reason to avoid writing prompts is related: I want what I write to matter somehow. I write in an ironic desire to be known (ironic because I hide myself, as I just described; I want to be known, but I want only the best part of myself to be known.) A writing prompt tends to be faintly interesting, but tends to the generic. “Everyone has a best friend; write about yours.” “Everyone has a first pet; write about yours!”
I don’t have a problem writing about my best friend (from now or from when I was young) but I don’t want a simple rehash of detail. I want to have had something to say, and a writing prompt doesn’t really require that very well.
I want more from myself.