In one of my writers’ groups, our main focus is writing exercises, wherein a “prompt” is given, and we would then take 20-40 minutes to write something based on the prompt. You don’t HAVE to write on the prompt; you can take just part of the prompt, or do your own thing entirely. This isn’t a strict environment; it’s a way to spark the creativity and get people to actually write even if it’s something they won’t use later. We have a 30 minute or so period at the end in which we share what we’ve written, if desired.
An example of prompts we’ve been given in the past are: “satisfaction”, “superstition”, “Her laughter broke the silence….”, and “How to make a dragon”. The last one had a specific scenario about a scientist doing all of this DNA stuff to create his/her own dragon. I don’t really write stories, so I used the dragon as a metaphor in a set of lyrics I created.
And that’s what I want to focus on here today. No, not dragons or metaphors based on them. It’s the fact that you can give a prompt to 15 different people and get 15 different creations. It’s amazing. What makes imagination and creativity work? And what makes it work differently in each individual? It’s miraculous.
There are the “mainstay” members that are there almost all the time, people that sporadically show, and others that come once or twice and never again. But everyone that’s come even once and shared what they’ve written has conjured something no one else has. Every one of our “core” group that shows up definitely has their niche style. One guy writes fictitious slapstick humor that’s so over the top that, if made into a movie, only Jim Carey could play it. One guy has a sci-fi/horror bent with a twist of sexual thriller. One likes her romance, and another likes her lust and violence in equal measure. Those are just some examples. But they can all change it up on you. The Jim Carey guy, for example, every so often will break out something that’s surprisingly tender and genuine. Frankly, I’m in awe of his skill. The lust and violence writer will write a very personal poem every once in awhile.
My own contributions, as I wrote in a post that seems very long ago at this point, are poems and lyrics. I really don’t deviate from this; it’s what I do. There are an incredible amount of pieces I wouldn’t have written if not for the prompts, and many concepts that the prompts inspired simply would never have come to my mind otherwise. I owe the group a great amount for that.
The other writers’ group I’m in focuses on more technical aspects, such as scene structure, character development, finding an agent, making sure your manuscript is ready for submission, etc. As I said, I’m not a story writer, but I like to go to those meetings for the camaraderie, and who knows? I may write a story some day. This group had a meetup last weekend, which was the character development session. I’m a bit blown away by how much work it is to do prose. I’m overwhelmed at the moment. I’m not giving up on it, but it’s eye-opening to see how much research and groundwork must be done. Quite the opposite of what I usually do, which is very emotion-fueled. I write my lyrics which (hopefully) get a reaction from the reader/listener. I write as a reaction to something I’ve lived or seen, and I do most pieces in a single sitting. I’ll create most of my prompt-based work in the 20-40 minutes given, and a lot of the time my first draft is my final draft. Or, at the least, very few revisions are ever done. It suits my attention span to write what I write!
I have a new respect for the “story tellers” now. Not that I didn’t respect them before, but now I see what they have to go through to create what they do, if they’re going to do it convincingly. Power to them. I still could jump into that realm, and it would be a good personal challenge, but I think I know where my bread is buttered. My lyrics. It’s where my true talent lies, and I actually NEED to do it. It’s how I process my world, and how I purge my demons.
Everyone in these groups has their own style and preferred genre, and I’ve got mine, it seems. Creativity is an incredible, inconceivable thing, and what’s more incredible is how everyone has their own voice.
Wonderfully put!!!! You have to tell me more about the other group you belong to.
The group is Seeking the Muse, also on the meetup site. We meet on Tuesday nights. You’re more than welcome to attend, but I’ll forewarn you that some members’ contributions are definitely “Rated R”. You might need adult supervision to be admitted!
Fox!! you read my mind. I’m in a writer’s group now that I love and reading your post made confirmed what I’ve been suspecting lately- I need to work with different writers too! I’ve been wanting more and wnating to work with writers who are in the process and doing different things. Writing is such an isolated craft that learning from others and getting encouragement from others is so helpful for me. Anyway, great blog and a topic I needed to hear today!
Being in these groups really is helpful, especially since they each focus on different things. The best part is the bonds made with the other members. It sounds stupid, but I hadn’t anticipated that part.