Friday, January 22, 2010

This Week's Draft and a Question of Prompts

Woo Hoo, my new routine of not reading the blogs first, but just getting to the writing seems to be paying off. (I'm sure this seems like a "Duh!" kind of statement, but hey we all take different paths on our journey, right?) I did read some poetry to transition and settle into a world of words. I'm happy to report that I was successful in generating something new today. It looks like the draft of a poem and seems sturdy, but only time will tell. It's titled "Pilgrimage." I did use some old notes on one of my inspiration cards to get started. My first few lines turned out to be just prose broken up into lines...eeek! Then, I loosened up and rearranged things and found my footing and my voice. The process of this poem was very choppy. I'd draft another stanza and see where it led me, but then I realized a lot of the lines needed to be reordered for sound and sense. I've just been talking to my students, both in creative writing and in composition, about shitty first drafts, a phrase I borrow from Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird. It was good for me to remember it myself today!

Now, let me confess, Dear Readers, that I've been haunted by a blog post I read yesterday. Rebecca Loudon has a great blog, Radish King, and a few days ago, she posted on using writing prompts. Here's her initial post, but the good stuff is in the comments. "Don't use writing prompts. Come up with your own damned stuff." If you follow my postings about my draft process, you can probably see why I'm haunted. I often use prompts of some kind, often word gathering or some kind of leaping off from something I've read or images I've studied. Perhaps this is not the kind of prompt Loudon means, but in any case, why am I so bothered? If it works for me, why should I care what others think about my process?

Loudon asserts in the comments section that "So much modern poetry lacks imagination." I hope and mostly believe that I do access my imaginative powers once I get into the depth of the poem. This is one of the areas I worry about in my own work. I want desperately to make imaginative leaps. I want my images to be original and worth the reader's effort. Does it make me or my poems weaker because they often begin with a direction? Isn't writing with a form in mind writing from a kind of prompt?

Reading Loudon's post occurred on the heals of having a former student contact me to find out where she could find prompts like the ones we'd used in a creative writing class. I had just finished sending her a list of books, a link to a blog post with some prompts, and directions for six of my favorite prompts that I use often. After reading Loudon's post, I had one of those teacher moments where you question whether you've led the student astray or towards success.

What do you think, Dear Readers? To prompt or not to prompt?


Anonymous said...

Yes & no. I have a hard time with subject-driven prompts. My topics find me, not the other way around. However, when I'm stuck, I find working in forms, some syllabic challenge or whatever, is very helpful to get going.

And as usual, rules are made to be broken...

Sandy Longhorn said...

M., thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the topics find me, so subject-driven prompts don't often work. Maybe that was Loudon's point?

Radish King said...

Thank you, Sandy, for your take on this.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca, and for offering up your post originally. Love your blog!