The Merits of Picture Prompts

photo credit Justin Luebke on Unsplash

part i

Earlier this spring, I had an epiphany.

And part of this epiphany involved me starting to write every morning.

Since I was new to writing so often, my muscles were weak.

I realized a few things very quickly: my first inclination when I’m stuck is to journal. That was easy enough to combat. It just meant that I took ten or fifteen minutes to journal first and get that out of the way so I had no excuse.

I also realized if I have to rely on myself to get the juices flowing, I’m going to be sitting there twiddling my thumbs for a while, and that wasn’t very productive, so.

Long have I been cultivating my Pinterest boards. (I wasn’t an immediate Pinterest convert. I tried it years ago, tried it for blogging and writing alike and just… wasn’t wild about it. I don’t know what happened, but I’m all about it now.) And I’ve got extensive boards. One of them is specifically for story prompts.

When I sit down, I journal. Then I find something that strikes me on my Pinterest board. I don’t spend a lot of time doing this, knowing how Pinterest can suck me in.

But once I do, I fill out a blank 3×5 index card–front and back.

part ii

What this process has allowed me to do is dip my toes in the creative well every morning before the craziness of my day starts.

It’s a bit like what US Navy Admiral William McRaven talks about when he says to make your bed every morning:

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task.”

Admiral William McRaven, US Navy

When I fill out that 3×5 card, I’ve accomplished an important part of my day. Even if the writing was “bad,” it was done. That card was blank and now, because of my discipline and determination, it isn’t.

In this particular case, the goal is not quality. It’s quantity.

So by merely filling out the card–regardless of the nature of the content–I get to claim credit for completing that task.

It’s an extremely heady feeling that often puts my day on the right track. (The write track? Groan if you must, I enjoy a good pun lol)

And doing this also coincides with another thing Admiral McRaven said:

“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”

Admiral William McRaven, US Navy

As part of my MFA program, I have to write an entire novel. My novel right now is projected to top out at 100,000 words.

That’s a lot of words.

But if I want to be a professional author, I’m not going to write just 100,000 words for this thesis novel. I’m going to write those and then write them all over again because my thesis novel has to undergo two semesters of revisions before final submission.

And then I’m going to write another book after that. And another one after that.

It’s a scary number, but it’s a little less scary when you consider that I can stuff about a page’s worth of words on those 3×5 cards. That’s about 250 words. Let’s be generous and say 300 because I write small.

300 words x 365 days = 109,500 words a year

Basically, regardless of what’s going on with my big novel projects, if I keep with my daily writing, I’ll write a hefty-sized book a year.

Aside from that, doing a daily snippet gives you the chance to explore a new creative space every day. It isn’t a commitment. The only thing you’re committing is time and swinging the door open to inspiration. Show up, but don’t wait for inspiration and creativity. Start without them. Explore. Imagine.

With that thought in mind, I encourage you to explore the idea of writing a little something every morning. If for no other reason than a small boost of dopamine to get your day off right.

part iii

I’m going to start posting my daily writings. I’ve been holding onto them for a while (and also got out of the habit *eek*) and it’s time to put them out there.

They probably won’t do more than just exist for a while, and I’m okay with that. Part of writing is letting it go.