Writing on Demand

I’ve often used prompts to get me going,  whether in writing groups with friends or students or while doing the Poem a Day Challenge or even for inspiration for this blog, but today, I am stumped by the prompt.  

I decided to take a writing course online. (Should I be concerned that auto correct made that a worrying vise?) It is a MOOC offered by the International Writer’s Workshop of the University of Iowa Writer’s Program.  Two nights ago, I watched the first class’s video,  read the short story,  and checked out the prompt. And now,  I’m stuck. 

I am supposed to write from the point of view of a child,  something I rarely do and have never done in fiction.  Yes,  the point of taking a class is to stretch oneself and try new things,  but to be so stumped on the first assignment is disconcerting.  The funny thing is that when I’m stuck,  what I usually do is go to a prompt and start free associating. But today it is the prompt that has me grounded. 

But, I have time.  I won’t sweat it.  Or so I tell myself.  Class 2 was posted this morning. I will move on with class 2, watch the video,  do the reading,  examine the prompt, and do the writing.  Maybe this will loosen me up for the first assignment.  Excellent.  I have a plan. 

I came home tonight and sat down at the computer, opened the email, pressed play.  All is good.  Interesting class on point of view and desire. I’m taking notes and ruminating on what the prompt may be–until the computer disconnects from the Internet at 33 minutes into a 47 minute class. Now I’m wondering,  “Is this an omen? How should I take this?”

So,  instead of writing my story,  I’m writing to you,  my readers. Help me out here. What do you do when you are stuck? If you’ve had to write on demand and found it a challenge,  how did you handle it? 


4 thoughts on “Writing on Demand

  1. Maybe you could try using a childhood memory. It’s hard when a prompt doesn’t immediately work for you. I have this same problem often when it’s a picture prompt or when I have to use a pre-defined character. I can visualize characters, settings, everything in my head if I make it up but when it’s presented to me and I have to fit something into someone else’s ‘idea’ I struggle.

    One of the things I’ve tried is to write something very short from a different point of view than what I’ve been told to do. For example: a story about a kid and a dog, but from the dog’s perspective. Then when I’m finished I would flip it and write the same story from the child’s viewpoint (I actually did this for a story about a dog rescue). It’s extra work but sometimes it shakes loose the idea I need.

    Just remember, children are just like adults but with less experience. Like the rest of us, they are able to experience joy, fear, pain, excitement, dread, surprise, embarrassment, satisfaction, disappointment, etc. You’re writing this from a person’s point of view and you can do that.

    Good luck, you’ve got this!


  2. I know how that feels, i.e., when a prompt doesn’t immediately spark an idea. When that happens, I walk. I mean literally leave my desk and go outside for a walk. Nothing works faster than that for me. I guess it helps that I live close to a forest and lake.

    But as a matter of fact, I am at present writing a novel from a nine-year old perspective. And it had not been easy to begin, because it meant revisiting and borrowing from my childhood memories. But once it gets going, and working from a premise of fiction than a memoir, it’s fun. The imagination goes wild. 🙂

    All the best, it’s doable!


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