Writing prompts can help get the creative juices flowing. However, if we’re open to the Holy Spirit, they can also lead to unique opportunities. Let me give some examples.
The photo accompanying this post shows a prompt that our Quirky Quills writing group used recently. We each had to pick something to add to a still life and then gave ourselves 15 minutes to write about it. It seemed like a motley collection of objects, but when we read out our pieces, it was amazing what everyone had written. There were poems and stories about racial tensions and prejudice in the United States, women forced into prostitution in the Middle East, and an amusing piece about Peter Jackson revisioning Gone With the Wind to include hobbits. I couldn’t help thinking that the Holy Spirit had inspired those ideas. Okay, mine was the wacky one about the hobbits, so maybe Holy Spirit inspiration is harder to argue for that one. Then again, maybe God knew we needed a lighter piece to balance out the serious ones. In any case, we all went away with something we could work on, something we wouldn’t have thought of without the prompt and that moment of inspiration.
Some anthologies and writing competitions also focus on a particular theme. For example, the Australian group Poetica Christi had the theme of “Taking Flight” for their 2011 poetry collection. I felt God prompting me to write a poem about Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus. It’s since been published. In 2012, the theme was “Into the Depths”. I felt God leading me to write about a couple who always skirt around the issues rather than sharing intimately. It’s been accepted for this year’s anthology. I wouldn’t have written either of those poems without the theme as a starting point.
Recently, I decided to try my hand at a short story competition where the first sentence had to be “Heads we get married, tails we split up.” I didn’t find that line particularly inspiring, so I thought I’d just write a light piece for fun. Then I felt God whisper, “put them on a train in India”. India? Where did that come from? But I sat down, typed in the first line and started writing about two people on a train in India. The story took on a life of its own and ended up being a tear-jerker about an orphan girl rescued by aid workers. I asked a work colleague to check it for cultural accuracy. Not only did she pick up one of my cultural faux pas, but she said she really enjoyed it. That led to a chat about the current situation in India. Another colleague also liked it and wanted to know what happened next. Mmm … could be a Friday lunchtime series in the making. I wouldn’t have had those two conversations if not for the initial sentence and God’s quiet nudging.
If you’ve never used writing prompts, why not give them a try? If you’re sensitive to the Holy Spirit and willing to step out of your comfort zone, you may find opportunities opening up for you – the odd publication, relationship-building conversations, and more material that you can later develop into other projects. Do a google search for “writing prompts” and let God and the creative juices take you for a ride. Mmm … “take you for a ride”. I think I’ve just found my next prompt!
Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 90 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction). She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same. (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragement").