On Writing Prompts
I have a mixed relationship with writing prompts. Occasionally they are very stimulating, and interesting to me. It can depend on the mood.
Writing prompts also can be problems to be solved. That can keep it a bit too intellectual, a bit too detached. Your writing response to a prompt, which is really just a thought-form, a word-image, can stay safely at the level of the five-finger exercise, the étude, the study.
I have decided that, overall, I don't like writing prompts. There are two reasons. First is that they are someone else's idea of what to write about. That rarely works well for me. Not that I'm opposed to suggestions, rather that if your mind is already going in one direction, it can be completely derailed by an abrupt change of direction, and thus it can actually defeat the purpose by blocking the creative impulse.
I'd rather go wandering and see what catches my attention, what in the world generates a response. When I do like a writing prompt, it's because it generated a response, as if on a wander. I do this in particular with what I call camera walks, which are wanders with camera in hand, which cane be a meditation in itself.
The second reason is that I find most writing prompts insipid and unchallenging. They're just not very exciting. They don't activate my creative impulse, usually. That's not meant to sound arrogant, although it probably does. The truth is, I've been at this writing and making art game for some years now, and at some point you stop wanting to repeat all the beginning-level creative exercises, which is what most such offerings are.
Of course, there's no real reason to get irritated by writing prompts, and there's nothing wrong with beginning-level writing tools. In fact, they're essential. And no one is forcing me to use them.
What actually irritates me is the seemingly permanent assumption that we as writers never grow past needing such tools. When you're at certain stages in your creative process, having the tools on hand to kick-start your creativity is excellent, necessary, wonderful, essential. But at some point you must become a self-starter. At least to a minimum extent. You can't rely on external kick-starts forever. If you can['t switch over to kick-starting your own self internally, then what have you ever learned? How can you expect to continue to grow as a writer and go on?
There's a certain lowest-common-denominator aspect to this. While it's true that there are always new beginning writers who need the tools, there is a silent assumption, often enough, that we never outgrow such tools. And that's a false assumption. If you assume you're never going to grow up, then of course you never will. If you cannot conceive of something, you're unlikely ever to fulfill it.
So while I acknowledge that writing prompts as a craft tool have a definite and useful place in one's writing life, I also acknowledge their limitations. There comes a point in a writer's progress where you have to fly alone, or not fly at all.