|Lucien Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping|
What are prompts, and why should you use them?
When the muse is working and inspiration strikes, prompts need not apply. But the rest of the time, better to take from the gift horse when he's offering. 'Discovering a secret in a relationship' is this week's prompt from the short story course I'm attending. On Monday I had a story called Yehudit ticking over slowly, one I could have made last for a month - and I may do so yet - but by Thursday I had a story, and by Thursday midday it had a title, Birmingham Blues, in which the protagonist, Dee, discovers a secret in her relationship. If I may say so, it's not a bad story. The other one has not advanced much, but it hasn't retreated either, and any lessons learned in the writing of Birmingham Blues will be applied to Yehudit. It's win-win, as far as I'm concerned.
Sometimes an idea comes from some interstice of heart, mind and soul, and sometimes, when there's no idea at all there are prompts (see any number of creative writing books and websites). Something interesting happens with a prompt. It's as if, because it did not come from deep within, there is less personal investment at stake, and therefore less of the internal critic's input, or simply less of the artistic angst. With a prompt, one is making the best of a restricted situation. (The implication is that without the restriction, Great Art would be in progress, that one is only making do.)
I'm a fan of prompts - in the absence of muses, of course. As to Lucien Freud's muse (above), I can only aspire.