Until last year, I’d never used a book of writing prompts. I never saw the value in them. I found most books of prompts silly or pretentious. I thought it was better to write my own stuff, since it would be impossible to write anything good from someone else’s suggested topic. But my neighbor wanted to do some writing exercises with me and YOGA FOR THE BRAIN seemed good for us both. It has 366 writing exercises, so we committed to doing one a day for all of 2014. I didn’t care that the book was written for students. I thought it meant I’d finish faster.
Can I just say how wrong I was? About all of it. These prompts weren’t easy or simple or short. They were seriously fun, spoke to people of all ages, and brought up meaty topics in interesting ways. Sometimes I wrote three or more pages because the prompt triggered a memory or an idea and I simply had to get it on the page.
Here are some of the prompts I had great success with: #153: “What would your new rules for the world be?” #82: “Create an expression of joy in exactly 25 words.” and #166: “Write a conversation between a modern person and a person from the past.” (I chose Miley Cyrus and Ella Fitzgerald.)
But the value of YOGA FOR THE BRAIN goes far beyond the exercises in it, and what I learned wasn’t found in the book. I learned that writing a little bit every day is better than long writing sessions once a week. If you miss one day, you can make it up fairly easily. But if you miss more than one, you’ll be hard pressed to finish all the old work and the new stuff too. My life got chaotic when I moved this summer, and making up for days I didn’t write was nearly impossible.
Often, I’d come to the prompt with a head as blank as the page in front of me. But once my pen was on the paper, I always found something to say. Sometimes what I wrote was flat and dull, but most of the time it was quite good and sometimes it was amazing. I rediscovered what I’d always known: inspiration is a myth. If I put my butt in my chair and my pen in my hand, writing would happen. The muses would show up, but only if I showed up first.
After the first few months, my neighbor dropped out and stopped writing her daily exercises, but I kept going. I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t always easy, but finishing every prompt in YOGA FOR THE BRAIN has helped me grow as a writer in unexpected ways.
YOGA FOR THE BRAIN can be found here.
Rating: 5 stars
This book is best for: beginning writers
I recommend this book.