A “prompt” is like back in the old days when we had old-fashioned hand-crank water wells. In order to get water from the well, you had to pour some water down the well. This was known as “priming the pump”. Using a writing prompt is a bit like that: you use something to spark your memory, or your imagination, so that you get some words. Some words lead to more words, and before you know it, you’re writing.
What exactly is a prompt? Anything, really. It can be a phrase, a single word, a writing assignment, a thought, something someone said that you overheard, a picture, even a scent. I had surprising results bringing a “vocabulary of odor” training kit for aromatherapy to a writing circle. I passed the scents around and couldn’t get folks to stop writing. Something primal happened. When we smell something, it triggers our emotions at a deep level.
How do we use a prompt? This is going to sound like a Zen answer, but if it gets you onto the page, then you’re doing it correctly. In more concrete terms, you use a prompt to get yourself writing. What works for one person might work differently for another, so over the next couple weeks we’re going to experiment with a lot of different kinds of prompts.
How do you get the most out of this workshop? The best way is to try everything once. Attack it with the spirit of a kitten: try everything, see what’s the most fun, and keep doing that. But don’t pre-judge. Don’t look at something and assume it won’t work for you. The point here is that we might not know what is the most useful to us; just experiment and be willing to do new and weird things in order to get onto the page.