Writing Prompt: When do you like it best? Exploring Tensions and Contradictions
Posted April 13, 2012on:
I am always amazed at how much insight a spontaneous writing prompt can yield. In my ‘First Thursdays’ writing group, we come up with a prompt generated on the spot, freewrite for 5-10 minutes and share. We also critique 3-4 pages of work we’ve brought. Yesterday, my dear writing buddy Al offered this prompt: “I like it best when…” We put pen to the paper for 8 minutes.
I wrote a list:
I like it best when I’m in charge.
I like it best when I find a book that makes language feel fresh.
I like it best when I work in the background and help others—but also acknowledged for a doing a good job.
I like it best when others believe I’m smart.
I like it best at home, hanging out without any makeup on, in comfy clothes, with plenty to eat in the fridge.
I like it best when I have uninterrupted writing time that fuels long spells of imagination.
I like it best when I’m healthy.
I like it best when I have a new book that I’ve written, hot off the press, in my hands.
I like it best when I wake up with a line for a new poem on the tip of my tongue.
I like it best when I have cooked a sumptuous Indian meal.
I like it best when I laugh so hard with a friend that I sound like I’m snorting.
I like it best being inundated by the lights, sounds and smells of a Las Vegas casino.
I like it best right after a facial.
I like it best when I hear from a former student who tells me about their achievements.
In reading over my list wonderful contradictions and tensions are present. My writing group pointed to the tension in my statements between liking to be in charge and wanting to play a supporting role. I see a tension between my enchantment with casinos (I lived in Las Vegas for two years), and therefore intense stimuli and the joys of solitude that accrue through the practice of writing.
Tensions and contradictions are what make humans fascinating and writers mine these facets of personality to make their work emotionally compelling. Try this writing prompt and see what you discover about yourself. Or, you can apply this prompt to the fiction that you write. How would your main character answer the prompt? What contradictions and tensions from the character’s list could you draw on to deepen a conflict or plot development?