Let Curiosity Take the Wheel

A few weeks ago, I led a workshop exploring the five senses through writing. A few days ago I finished leading a 21-Day Creative Writing Challenge (which many of you signed up for, so I took a break from the WritingStrides newsletter--I figured that hearing from me every day for three weeks might be enough!).

DSC_8012_largeFor both, I carefully selected the prompts. At the workshop, to highlight sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. For the challenge, to spark ideas and get to know characters--including yourselves.

Many people stayed on topic, and discovered whole new stories, revisited old memories, and got to know characters or themselves in new ways.

And yet some writers went off track, writing about something else entirely. The prompt got them to the page, and the writing led them from there. It's a good reminder:

A WRITING PROMPT IS NOT AN ASSIGNMENT. IT'S A TICKET TO EXPLORE. 

It's an invitation to enjoy the feel of your pen against paper and see where it leads.

It's an opportunity to let curiosity take control. What comes up next? And where does that lead?

Eventually, you will stumble on something interesting, and that's your signal to write an actual piece.

The spirit of exploration can take some getting used to. I've had workshop participants talk to me after class about the way other writers didn't follow the rules because they didn't follow the prompts--even when I gave permission to do just that.

This type of concern isn't about the other writers, of course. It's a discomfort with giving up control, or possibly doing something wrong.

But here's why it's worth practicing: when you learn to explore, writing feels good.

Almost every writer I've emailed or talked to about the writing challenge has told me that they had fun. They felt good about writing again. And that's the ultimate writing goal, isn't it? To enjoy it?

So here's my suggestion for the coming week: hand over the reins to curiosity. Let yourself explore.