Writing from Prompts
“I had serious fun with this prompt! I haven’t felt that in a while. I was drawn to keep at my draft and would not have written it if not for the habits of mind you are trying to encourage in addition to actual writing.” -Dave Russo (poet, flash writer)
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more about this fall’s Airstream Dispatches books and authors I have planned, but today I’d like to dive deeper into how writing from prompts will work in this program, especially the impact they have on creating community and accountability.
Each month, participants registered for Airstream Dispatches gathers as a community to explore a selected book as it relates to the craft of writing. I always pull some text from the book we’re studying to read out loud or share on the screen, which allows me to teach about the craft concept I’m seeing being used in that excerpt.
From there, I take questions and offer a prompt (or several). In my experience teaching innovative online classes for 10 years, prompts delivered via webinar allow us to have fun, experiment, and play with our imagination–all from the privacy of our own homes. Sometimes I send prompts by email, a week or so before coming together; other times prompts are delivered live, during the webinar. The prompts I offer help writers practice using that craft concept on their own after the webinar ends, applying their new learning to material they just drafted, or to existing drafts. In the past, some prompts have included looking at superstructures (present moment, flashback, return to present moment), sentence structure (freight train sentences, anaphora, etc.), or how to show reaction and emotion on the page (without using tons of exclamation points!).
All prompts I give are supported with sample texts, guided steps, and clear tips for how to apply the craft concept we’re practicing in the prompt, to your own writing when the webinar is over.
It can feel strange, at first, to write in silence with a group of others during livestream webinars, but time and time again, participants tell me that they find the silence and mutual experimentation absolutely inspiring. We’re all in it together, if only for a few minutes, and those minutes tend to fuel a participant’s writing efforts for days, if not weeks, to come. According to English Journal, “Community requires meaningful interaction and deepened understanding, two things that can occur as a result of writing and sharing, particularly informal writing.” I also think accountability comes into play. First, when we write together during the webinar, we’re collectively supporting and seeing each other in real time, and putting even just five…or five hundred…words onto the page. That’s writing. That counts. That’s getting something done and making space for the imagination.
The other way accountability happens is by posting drafts from prompts or other works in our optional, private Facebook group. In that online space, participants may read each other’s work, rally for support, ask for feedback, or get inspired by seeing the work of their peers. As moderator, I always check in, cheer people on, pose questions, and offer bonus links in support of that month’s reading or prompt or craft concept.
If you’re ready for community and a new type of accountability, Airstream Dispatches is the right place for you. It’s a chance for us to gather in this spirit to do meaningful creative work. This worldwide book club for writers brings together a group of dedicated creatives who want the same thing I do: new knowledge, fun, productivity, and connection—no strings attached. Is this you? Will you show up for yourself and your imagination, just once a month?