Thursday Writing Prompt No. 70

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Today, write bad prose.

Yes, bad prose. The scourge known as writer’s block is actually perfectionism in disguise. As writers, we sit at the keyboard or in front of a pad of paper and stare and it, wondering if creativity is going to happen for us. It won’t. We need to make it happen — and the way to do that is to start the writing process. Unfortunately, we’re often too frozen by the thought that our work isn’t good enough that we allow it to stop us in our tracks.

It’s perfectionism that makes us afraid. Our story will contain too many adjectives. The story will be lame; the characters cardboard. Our dialogue is stupid. The idea has been used before. And so on, ad infinitum. Really, there are so many excuses for not writing that you could literally write a book full of them!

Many years ago I took an undergraduate art studio class. The first day we were given a shopping list for art supplies. We had to buy charcoal and huge pads of paper. The next day of class we set up our easels and opened our paper pads. I can still remember the imposing glare of that big sheet of paper, taunting me that I could not draw. I began to wonder why I had signed up for the class. The instructor told us to take our charcoal and draw an X across the entire sheet of paper. Then she said that now the paper was already messed up and we could draw without being afraid of ruining it.

Writer’s block is the same way. We’re so afraid of writing something bad that we don’t write anything.

So that is today’s writing prompt. You will write down a list of five reasons why you can’t write today. Each sentence will “ruin” the pristine page and get you past that starting point. And writing down reasons for not writing will free you from the hold those ideas have on your creative muse. Go a little crazy with the exercise; the reasons don’t have to be realistic. Perhaps the dog really did eat your homework and you had to take him to the vet. And at the vet’s office there was a lady with a strange pet… Or an alien knocked at your apartment door and asked to borrow a cup of sugar.

The five reasons for not writing should each be something that you can develop later on into a full-fledged story. Don’t worry about writing any of the actual stories just now. Focus on writing a reason for not writing that you can have some fun with. And the sillier the reason, the better it might just be as a story idea.

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