Writing/Not Writing: With 2 Non-Ironic Writing Prompts

IT’S FRIDAY. I’m talking to my friend Mary, who is an excellent writer—but who no longer writes. I actually have several friends like that. But it’s okay. She’s a wonderful human being, anyway. Still, it makes me wonder why writers stop writing. Have you ever put down your pen (or the electronic version thereof) and simply walked away from your literary endeavors?

If so, have you returned to the life of the word?

And if you have, how long did your hiatus last? Do you know why you stopped? What did you learn about your relationship to writing while you and it were on a break (Ross and Rachel reference: sorry/not sorry). What made you come back? Are you a better writer for stepping away? Did you change genres? What about your writing changed since you quit for a while?

If you’re anything like me, when you’re not writing, your life just isn’t complete. While I may be relieved at not having to show up at my keyboard on the regular, the hole writing leaves is a gaping one. And like most gaping holes, the writing hole has a prodigious gravitational pull. So (like you? but not like Mary—yet), I always get sucked back in.

Writing prompts

1) Wherever you are on the writing/not-writing continuum, you might want to journal a bit about your relationship with the word-hungry beast. Use any of the questions posed above as a starting point for your personal exploration regarding your love/love-hate relationship with writing.

2) You might also want to take your experience of writing/not writing and put it to fictional use. In that case, here’s a prompt for you:

Write about a character who steps away from an art form (writing, painting, trumpeting …) that has had great significance for her. Perhaps she gives it up for a more practical path—accounting or nursing or parenting, for instance. Or because she loses her connection to her muse. Or because she feels like she’ll never achieve greatness in her field. Or….

Write a series of scenes about your character’s return to the pen/fiddle/garden. Start with the moment in which she first realizes will never feel fulfilled until she gets back to her keyboard/easel/pastry board. Next, have her act on that epiphany: Does she just walk away from her current life? At what expense? Or does she try to integrate her art into her non-art circumstances? And how does that work out? (Use this opportunity to create big trouble for your character, as someone in her life is likely to rise up and complicate her new-found decision, if not block her creative path altogether!)

Personally, I’m not big on writing (or reading) about romance. But I am deeply interested in how people—fictional and actual—conduct their creative lives. So, if this idea sounds good to you, and you find it has legs, let me know when your novel or memoir about reviving a creative life is published. I’ll be first in the pre-order line at Amazon. Because I am always delighted to read a tale about the hot, sweaty pursuit of a tall, dark, handsome life in the arts.

Writing inspiration

OLD IN ART SCHOOL (a memoir about a writer/historian enrolling in art school at an advanced age), by Nell Painter

A WORK OF ART (a novel about a young artist who gets stopped in her creative tracks by life), by Melody Maysonet

UTOPIA AVENUE (a novel about a band’s “Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder…. of music, madness, and idealism.”), by David Mitchell

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Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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