As a writer, I am always on the lookout for inspiration. Over the years I have combed the web for helpful writing prompts--usually during times of distressing writer's block. I've seen many different compilations, but the more I look the more I notice that there seems to be some pattern that emerges with most of them. The prompts look recycled, common, stick to one theme even when they're meant to have variety, and in the worst cases are just examples of laziness where the person who put together the list just decided to throw out random words that are supposed to hit us with brilliant ideas. Now every effort is appreciated of course, but if I'm being completely honest about my thoughts on the latter, well, I just want to say, "Oh, please. If it were that easy I'd just pick up my dictionary."
I think the problem is that in all the excitement generated by fandom, it becomes 'trendy' to come up with or redistribute writing prompts, challenges, etc. I think that in order to help others find inspiration, you have to be inspired yourself. If you have nothing fresh to bring to the table, then why act as though you do? It feels good to be involved, sure, but we artists take our craft very seriously and when we need help there is nothing worse than clicking on a link that looks so promising and finding that someone has put very little effort into their 'remedies'. And isn't that what writing prompts are for? Helping writers develop ideas and in that sense at least temporarily 'curing' writer's block?
Now I am of course generalizing, and there might be many out there who disagree with me. If you have been inspired by the endless lists of prompts that you've googled, then I say "More power to you." Maybe it didn't help me, but I'm glad if it's helped someone else.
Being something of a perfectionist though and having given this matter a great deal of thought, I've developed a theory about writing prompts. I think there is a trick to them: They can't be too specific or there is no room for the writer to form their own unique idea, but they can't be too vague either--like a single, very commonly used word--or they won't help to form any idea at all.
I'm taking a shot at trying out a simple formula that I hope will inspire. My method when creating 'generalized lists' is using short phrases that could call to mind a number of different things and that prompt the writer to finish the sentence or figure out what the elusive phrase could mean. And on the occasion that I use a single word, it's one that I don't think is often used in prompts. Nothing as simple as 'beauty', 'pain', etc. Words that we all instantly think of on our own just because they're such common themes, emotions, etc. that no story seems to be free of the concept.
I'll be posting my prompts soon, and I hope that they help some struggling artist to rediscover their vision.
If I have posted any words, phrases, etc. that have been used as prompts on someone else's lists, then it was unintentional. Everything I am offering up occurred to me without me having to 'go fish'. Hopefully it's all original, because my intention is to shake things up and 'bring something fresh'.