Writing prompts never work. They don’t work just the way a “career test” doesn’t work. Just the way a “passion test” doesn’t work. Just the way a family member, or a mentor, pointing to you and telling you: “You’re gonna be a doctor or lawyer when you grow up!”–never works.
None of that ever works because at the end of the day, nobody really knows you but you. At the end of the day, only you know what moves you the most. And it is often the case that what moves you the most is at complete odds with what moves everybody else. (This is at it should be, because you are meant to be a unique person.)
When a writing prompt does work, it’s only because it’s acting as a “mirror.” The prompt is like a mirror reflecting that which is already within you. You already know where to go, and that a writing prompt is only getting you there.
How do I know this? Because the “destination” you arrive at when you use a writing prompt never looks anything like the writing prompt itself. So, even then, when the writing prompt does work, it only ends up being similar to you taking a long detour… back to yourself.
So why take that detour? Why waste your time? When you really don’t need a prompt?
Instead of a prompt, just ask yourself this simple question:
“What moves me the most right now?”
Then, just go with the answer.
Use The World As Your Prompt
I was taking a walk the other day, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flock of birds in the sky. The birds were in a perfect “v-shape” formation.
The sight mesmerized me, and quickly the entire idea of bird formations drew me in.
Think about this: without language, without an advanced human mind, without training, without study, without stress, without worry, without doubt, without confusion, without analysis, a bird will fall into formation and—with its bird friends—will create a marvelous triangle in the sky.
These birds don’t think to go into formation—they just know to go into formation.
We, too, have this innate knowing.
So, our role is not to follow the lead of an “artificial prompt.” No, our role is simply to be silent. To listen. To remove all distractions. To remove all the noise. To stop analyzing and just experience.
Only then, without the need for an artificial prompt, can we know what truly moves us.
We need to listen closely until we can hear the “tick” within us. Until we can sense that exhilarating feeling that rises from within our stomach and folds into our chest. That knowing. If we listen to that innate knowing long enough, before we realize it, we are like a bird flying into formation, joining the others birds in creating that magnificent “v-shape” in the sky. At that point, we don’t need to think about what to write. All we need to do is pay attention—and the answers come.
It’s like rain suddenly falling from the sky. We don’t need to think about what to do in that situation. We already know what to do. We open our umbrella.
So, stop thinking about what to write next. Just realize that the rain is always falling, and your job is simply to open yourself up, like an umbrella.
Forget the artificial prompt.
Instead, use the organic, natural world as your prompt. It will guide you. It will point you in the right direction. The trees will sway this way and that, and you will follow. The butterfly will land at your feet, and it’ll wave its little wing at you (a sign that says you’re on the right track). A bird will fall into formation and the “v-shape” will slice the wind, forming a brief wink in the sky.
You Are The Prompt
When we allow ourselves to be who we are, we arrive closer to our destiny. We become fused with the truth of our being. When we allow ourselves to be who we are, our personal will binds with the will of life—and that’s when the magic happens.
When writers are taught how to follow their “internal prompt,” they’ll immediately relinquish the false path they are on, and proceed to follow the path they were always meant to be on.
For some, they discover that the path is still the writing path.
But for others, that path may lead them away from writing, and toward a calling to be a chef, an architect, an engineer, or something else, who knows?
Follow your internal prompt and no doubt you’ll see the outside world respond in a positive way. But stick to following some “artificial prompt,” and you’ll see yourself becoming constantly lost, confused, doubtful, and incredibly frustrated.
What Moves You The Most Right Now? Go With It.
When we ask others:
“Who should I be?” Or: “What should I write next?”
What we really want is for them to echo the whisper of our soul. We want them to tell us what moves us the most right now. But that’s a lot to expect of others. Because no one can ever tell you what truly moves you.
But, still, we want someone to echo the whisper of our soul to us. Why? Because we don’t trust the whisper of our soul unless someone else echoes it. Because on its own, the whisper of our soul is hard for us to believe.
So, we often deny this “internal prompt.” We ignore it. We think to listen to it is to be crazy. Unstable. Irresponsible. Wild. Out of the ordinary.
We’ve been taught that to follow an artificial prompt is the only way to go. We are asked to listen to the elder, to the society, to the culture, to the ones who came before us. We are told that they know better. They know life better. They know us better. So we are asked to listen to them and follow them as they lead the way.
But although the guidance of others is helpful, if we only rely on the guidance of others, and constantly ignore our own, inner guidance, we’ll always end up going the wrong way.
Because when we try to seek validation from the outside, we’re like a dog that chases its own tail. Trying to escape who we are never works because our essential nature is attached to us. Our essential nature is us. So we need to stop wasting energy resisting this essential nature.
Instead, let us remove the need for artificial prompts that lead us down false paths. Let us look within, instead. Let us be the prompt in our own writing. Let us be the prompt in our own lives.
What moves you the most right now? Go with it.