Ask Vivek: What is your favourite writing prompt?

Ask Vivek: What Is Your Favourite Writing Prompt

Over the years, I have turned to writing prompts especially when I have felt stuck (a.k.a. “writer's block”). Writing prompts are a useful way to ignite the writing muscle, not unlike the ten minutes of stretching you do before hopping on the treadmill or begin lifting weights. I also use writing prompts as icebreakers in workshops.

My favorite writing prompt is this:

Write about YELLOW

Write about the colour yellow, without using the word. What comes to mind? What does the color yellow make you feel, what might it smell like, what associations do have with the colour?

What I like about this prompt is that it forces me to be imaginative. It is also challenging because colours are generally descriptive words. This prompt forces me to be descriptive of a description. Whew! I also like the versatility of this prompt—if I am not feeling inspired by yellow, I can write about turquoise or fuschia.

Writing prompts can be useful beyond warming up. During the writing process of many of my books, I have usually used a prompt in the form of a question. In writing my collection of short stories, God Loves Hair, my prompt was this: What incidents do you recall in your past that might have helped socially construct your gender (and/or sexuality)? Many of the stories I wrote were born from this prompt. While writing my book of poetry, even this page is white, one of my prompts was: “How would you describe racism in words?” Having a central question as a prompt can be challenging but can also give your writing or project a direction, as your goal then becomes answering this question.

Let me know in comments what are some of your favourite writing prompts. Or send me any writing that was inspired by my favourite prompt. Also, please keep sending me questions you would like to see answered here. Next week, we will delve into songwriting!

This week, I feel inspired by the new Solange album, A Seat at the Table. If you haven’t checked out Solange’s music, I highly recommend her last EP, True.