Search This Blog

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prompts for When You're Stuck

Here's an interesting writing prompt that came to my inbox this week courtesy of the Poets & Writers "The Time is Now eNewsletter." You can subscribe to it by clicking on the link. (The newsletter comes once a week, supplying you with a poetry prompt, a fiction prompt, and a recommendation for a book on craft.)

This week's poetry prompt was:

Choose a draft of a poem that you've been working on or a poem that you aren't satisfied with. Print it out double-spaced. Write a new line between each line, then revise the poem as a whole, working to first expand it, then distill it to its most powerful form.

This is similar to a prompt I mentioned a few months ago in which you choose a poem by someone else, delete every other line (all the odds or all the evens), fill the missing lines in with lines of your own, then delete the lines that still remain from the original poem (whichever you didn't delete the first time around, the odds or the evens), and fill those in with your own lines.

These two ideas please me. When I am stuck, working in a puzzle-like way, solving something, fitting things together, is often a useful way to get unstuck.

Another idea I've read for getting unstuck is to simply say the very opposite of what you just said (replace the line with its opposite, or abut one opposite against another) and see what comes of that. Of course, sometimes it's not clear what the opposite of a line would be (for Seinfeld fans, remember the episode in which George decides to do the opposite of everything he would normally do in order to attract women; or, for Friends fans, remember when Joey does the opposite of everything that Chandler tells him to do: this is the episode about "going commando"--can you tell from my pop culture references when I moved to Japan and stopped keeping up with American pop culture?) But when the opposite is not clear, that might be an excellent opportunity to really use your imagination, and perhaps get past whatever is blocking you.

Finally, another good idea for when you are stuck is to use start the next line of the poem with a "turning" word or phrase, such as but, however, still, anyway, on the other hand, just to see what happens. (Yes, this is similar to saying the opposite, only not going quite so far in jogging your thinking out of its rut.)

I take no credit for these ideas, but have used them all at one time or another, and found them sometimes helpful, sometimes not.

No comments: