Prompts, Part One: 4 Reasons to Never Judge a Prompt
Warning -- this post is long. Lots to share about this delicious and mysterious writing tool.
I'm endlessly amazed how prompts pull from us what wants to be written. And yet, it's totally natural to judge a prompt as being good or bad, intriguing or lame, depthful or silly.
But you truly never know what will happen when you let go of the wheel and follow where the prompt leads.
Jennifer is a circle participant who noted,
"It doesn't seem to matter what the prompt is, a theme emerges, and for me, it's bravery."
As Jennifer says, it really doesn't matter what the prompt is. If your deepest, wisest self wants you to know or experience something, the prompt 'peanut-butter sandwich' can bring it to the surface as effectively as the prompt, 'What do I need to know?"
In fact, sometimes it's the random, trivial, or silly-sounding prompt that works faster and easier. They act as a side-door into the psyche, versus barging through the front door. They trick the mind to relax. "Nothing too deep happening here with 'peanut-butter sandwich.'"
Here are 4 ways to think about how prompts work and 3 prompt-journeys you might experience to help you suspend judgement on a prompt's value and instead, trust in their mystery and power:
#1. Prompt as a Magnet
Prompts have an uncanny way of pulling material out -- and with remarkable clarity and detail. A comment I hear a lot from women new to free-flow writing: "I haven't thought about ____ in AGES! "We're talking decades, oftentimes.
Or maybe it's an insight that's drawn to the surface...
#2. Prompt as a Toy
A prompt is like giving a barking or growling dog a bone to chew on. It gives your mind something to play with and this distracts the mean, judge-y voice that is overly concerned with how your writing sounds and if it's politically and spiritually correct, and if you look good to others, and, and, and...
#3: Prompt as a Key to Doors or Portals
A prompt is a tool that opens secret doors inside of you and take you into different aspects yourself, or different experiences of yourself. You don't know until you start writing which portal or portals you might enter:
insight & intuition
imagination & creative expression
emptying & stress reduction
clarity & problem solving
#4: Prompt as a Diving Board
A prompt is a jumping off point, plunging you into the deep end of your pool - your vast, mysterious self. Your psyche. Your unconscious.
Ok, the prompt has gotten you into the pool!
Your goal now, (in this goalless practice), is to let go of control and follow where the energy is, without editing, censoring or judging. What arises in your:
- 5 senses when you tune into your immediate surroundings?
- body awareness and sensations?
- emotions and feelings?
- thoughts, images, and imagination?
- deeper knowings, insights, and intuitive "hits"?
Below are descriptions of 3 kinds of prompt journeys. Combinations are common and there's no right way or better way to write to prompts.
- Deep-Dive Prompt Journeys
Sometimes the prompt provides a strong current of related energy - thoughts, ideas, images, longings, memories related to the prompt - and you might stay with the topic for the duration of the timed writing, or for much of it. There's lots to explore -- lots of energy and material that arises in layers. The more you write about (i.e. dusk), the more you remember, feel into, wonder about, describe 'dusk.'
It's satisfying to come out of the timed writing feeling like you've been on a deep dive, bringing treasures to the surface. It's different, but not better than bread-crumb journeys.
- Bread-Crumb Prompt Journeys
Sometimes the prompt takes you on a wild free-association journey and you let go of sticking to a topic, or being rational, logical, linear, or organized. Your free-associations have their own logic to them, which you learn to trust. You follow the energy of the thoughts, feelings, images, sensations, and where you end up will be quite far from where you began.
Bread-crumb journeys have a different kind of satisfaction, and are a great practice in surrendered writing -- and surrender in general.
- Ditch-the-Prompt Journey
Sometimes you ditch the prompt entirely and follow the thoughts, feelings, and images that DEMAND your attention and push their way to the front. If the prompt got us into the pool and got us writing, it did its job!
If you're stuck and nothing's coming forward, switch to this prompt: 'What I really want to say is...'
The key in any prompt-journey is to not think about what to write, but allow something to be written. Surrender to what wants to be felt, known, expresses, and/or released.
Stay tuned for Prompts, Part 2: ANYTHING Can Be a Prompt.
Have fun, and share you're aha-prompt moments with me. I'd love to hear!
Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:
Set a timer for 10 minutes. Or 5. Or 2!
Write whatever arises in your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Don’t stop to think or edit - keep your pen moving.
Accept ALL that you write - the pretty & ugly; absurd & boring.
Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...