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Writing Prompts

The Creative Copy Challenge Main Page

The Creative Copy Challenge Main Page

You might have heard this story before, but when I was in fifth grade my teacher gave us an assignment to write a one-page story using at least half of our spelling words for the week. To give us a starting point, he suspended a recorder (the musical instrument) from the ceiling by a string, and told us to write about that.

I wrote eight pages, and used every word in the list. I invented a detective agency in Los Angeles, Washington, and a gruff ex-cop dedicated to tracking down the city’s darker elements. He put an end to the terrifying reign of The Flute, a walking, talking, psychopathic flute (I wasn’t familiar enough with my woodwinds to know I’d gotten it wrong). My hero saved a lovely dame in the process, and made a name for himself that would lead to a whole series of absurd detective stories. Oh, and as a shocking message to the city’s criminal underworld, the mayor ordered the slain flute be strung up by its neck from a streetlight in the city center.

That story got me a parent/teacher conference and a trip to the school counselor. It also revealed to me, with a sudden and terrible conviction, that I was supposed to be a writer.

The Creative Copy Challenge

That was a turning point in my life, and it’s an incredibly special memory to me. I was reminded of it again last week when Carlos shared the link to a new blog he’d stumbled across, the Creative Copy Challenge. From their About page:

What is this site?

The coolness of this site is its simplicity.

We create blog posts that contain 10 random words or phrases.

In the comment section, you create and submit a cohesive, creative short story tying all the words together.

Why do this?

It’s our goal to offer the creative community a simple, quick way to crush writer’s block and unleash their creative muses. We believe this site provides just that.

Give it a try, but be warned; once you start, it’s hard to stop it’s so addictive. Besides, are you going to let 10 little random words stump you? Will you just take a peek and leave without “proving” how creative you are by commenting? We hope not.

That’s what we call a “writing prompt.” Writer’s Digest offers regular writing prompts, and most creative writing courses are built at least partially around them. The goal is to get you out of your languishing manuscript and just get you writing. They usually do that by creating a scene you haven’t thought about before, forcing you to start fresh, make something happen, and then get on with your work.

Getting the Most out of Writing Prompts

As you’ve probably noticed, that’s a big part of what I do with my writing exercises. It’s not my goal to have 100% participation every week, but just to have something out there that can get you moving, on that day when you realize you’ve been spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.

That’s the boring, everyday purpose of writing prompts. The wonderful side effect, of course, is that from time to time you stumble onto something amazing. I had to do something similar to the Creative Copy Challenge at an Honors Group lunch back in college, when a visiting speaker instructed everyone to write a poem titled “Autobiography of My Life with Jesus,” and throw in some key phrases. Mine ended up one of the best poems I’ve ever written. Now the stories I’ve been writing for CCC have me wanting to start a new mainstream thriller, and those silly little stories I wrote back in fifth grade launched me down this path in the first place.

So take them seriously. Make writing prompts a part of your life. As I said, I’m not expecting you to do every single writing exercise I post, but I do strongly encourage you to get in the habit of picking up the gauntlet whenever you stumble across a writing prompt that might have something to offer. Maybe you follow the rules to the letter. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you repurpose the exercise to create something you wanted to do anyway (like a blog post or a contest submission), or maybe you just scratch something down, get in and get out and get on with your life.

However you use your writing prompts…use them. And definitely check out the Creative Copy Challenge. It’s fun, and they’ve got an awesome little community going. Click through, say hi, and post something. Then come back here tomorrow and post a link in the comments, because that’s definitely going to be the writing exercise for this week!

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