“First thoughts have tremendous energy. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thought, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash.” — Natalie Goldberg
Last week, I asked my Facebook followers what they wanted to see on my page. Some of the answers were things I already do. Writing tips. Writing events. Mental health information. Cute animal memes. Photos of #Scarlet the #ninetyninepercentgooddog.
But one request was so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it. A person suggested writing prompts. Wow! And, yes!
I’ve begun to post a daily writing topic using the hashtags #nitaprompt and #writingpractice and #tenminutesgo. My friend Suzanne came up with #nitaprompt when I said these topics needed a hashtag. Since the real Nita is not always “prompt,” I had to go with that.
The hashtags #writingpractice and #tenminutesgo honor my long-time teacher, best-selling author Natalie Goldberg whose ground breaking book Writing Down the Bones revolutionized the way many people teach writing. Natalie introduced “writing practice” as a way to tap into what she called “wild mind” or the first flash of how we see something. The concept of “first thoughts” came from Natalie’s Zen practice. She offered writing practice as a way to help people free themselves from writer’s block.
In the workshops I attended with her in Taos, New Mexico, we sat on folding chairs in the classroom at Mabel Dodge Luhan House. When it was time to write, Nat called out a topic often as simple as “mashed potatoes” followed by the admonition, “Ten minutes. Go!” We were to each keep our hand moving, pen flowing ink across the page of a spiral notebook, as we jotted down the first images that came to mind from whatever topic she offered. These ten minute timed writing intervals created a pressure cooker effect helping us to drop down into our writing.
Writing prompts still serve as the basis for much of my writing. When the blank page proves too daunting, a topic gives me a jumping off place. I often veer off into some other topic more related to whatever project I’m currently writing, but it gives me a place to begin.
If you’re stuck or bored or need a new place to start, scroll to Facebook or Twitter and type in #nitaprompt. Do with the topics as you wish. Ten minutes. Twenty. An hour. I hope you find them helpful.
And if you have favorite topics, send them my way. I’ll happily offer those to the masses as well.