Writing Prompts: Useful or a Time Suck?

Hello there!  In my attempts to get back to a steady writing schedule, I’ve been lurking (and occasionally conversing) in some writing forums.  I figured the advice from the writers I’m normally in touch with wasn’t working, so why not see if I could find different advice in new places?  Unfortunately, I haven’t found much in the way of new tricks to try, but one constant I noticed was the encouragement to use writing prompts.  So, today I want to chat about how useful writing prompts actually are in the grand scheme of things.  Feel free to chime in at any time!

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My favorite prompts tend to have a visual aspect.

 

In all honesty, I don’t have much luck with prompts.  Of the hundreds I’ve tried over the years (everything from the ones at the end of each chapter in pretty much every craft book to random ones I find online), I’ve produced something readable from maybe three of them.  I’ve written a lot of crap I’ve never looked at again because of them!  But overall, I’m not entirely sure prompts are worth it for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy them immensely, especially when I just want to get words on the page, but the majority of them never go beyond a rough sketch.

My favorites always seem to have images attached or encourage you to go forth and find an image to write about.  It’s actually kind of weird.  I think in words and I’ve never really considered myself a visual type of person, but over the years I’ve come to accept that photos and paintings and all kinds of sights inspire me (even more than eavesdropping on conversations does).  On the other hand, the writing prompt that I had the most success with was a poetry prompt encouraging a conversation with God.  It was pretty much the most angry thing I’ve ever written and I still secretly love it to this day.  So, I guess I gravitate toward anything visual or encouraging a dialogue.

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This one saved a project I had planned on never looking at again!

 

Sometimes, I’ll look at a prompt (like the one above) and never actually do anything about it, but it’ll get me thinking about something I haven’t thought about in years.  For instance, I had a story about a host club (please don’t make me explain what that is), but it honestly sucked and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it three years ago, so I scrapped it.  But this prompt made me think about it and now I know how to fix it!  I just have to decide if I want to keep it as a novella or if I want to try my hand at a graphic novel.

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It’s kind of like that.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that writing prompts are mostly a time suck for me, but they’re fun and randomly useful.  I definitely encourage trying them, especially if you just want to get some words out.  You never know when they’ll lead to something good.  However, don’t rely on them because (if you are anything like me) the good can be rare.  What’s your stance on prompts?  Have they been a valuable asset to you, something for fun, completely useless, or something else?  Leave me a comment on here or hit me up on social media!

Developing A New Rhythm For A New Year

Howdy howdy!  As I’ve rambled about before, I’ve been having a bit of a tough time getting back into a writing and reading rhythm this year, but things seem to be looking up (finally).  I’m reading with zeal again (thanks to a random desire to finally read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series).  I’m also revising my screenplay, which has both smooth patches and a couple of big issues that are giving me problems, but it counts as work!  I’m still wary about getting back into my novels without feedback, but I’ll get there soon.  For now, I’m still learning, changing, transforming.  As is my rhythm.

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They said I could be anything… I chose Sailor Saturn.

Last year, I had a nice rhythm that let me get a lot done, but I neglected certain areas of my life in order to get so much done.  It eventually drained me.  Combine that with the whole lack of feedback feeding my “I suck, what was I thinking?” mindset, and it’s a recipe for depression.  I’m hoping to avoid that by adding a few things to my schedule.  Of course that will require adjusting other areas, so it’s all just trial and error right now.

First and foremost, I plan on taking reading more seriously this year.  I haven’t read much since leaving Stonecoast, because I got wrapped up in the idea that productivity equals new words on the page.  Even revision felt like a way to avoid being productive (even though I know it’s an extremely important part of the process).  So, I want to devote at least an hour three days a week to reading.  It might cut into my writing time on days when writing is hard, but that’s okay.  You can’t write well without reading.  I’m going to keep that in mind this year.  If you see me slacking, feel free to crack the whip.

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Heise gets it.

Secondly, I want to take a few minutes just once a week to write a note or something by hand.  I recently bought some postcards to help me stick to this goal.  I’m hoping for a twofold result from this practice: a) it’ll be a way to let people know I’m thinking of them even though I’m not very good at keeping in touch, and b) it’ll help keep me writing even when I’m struggling.  I’ve heard a lot of people who were having problems writing in their usual method have more success getting over a hurdle if they switch writing methods (go from typing to handwriting then back again).  Maybe jotting something down every now and then will help keep things fresh in my head.

Lastly, I want to make time for socializing.  Whether I go to a reading with a friend or Skype with some of my Stonecoasters or make time to IM/text someone, I need to keep in touch with people.  I like being a recluse, and I’ve been getting worse and worse about it again, but it worries people, so I’m going to make an effort to really interact with someone at least once a week.

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Maybe not this close, but I should be closer to people.

 

So, what does all of this mean?  It means that sometimes you have to tweak your rhythm, especially when it’s no longer working.  Bear with me, and don’t freak out if I suddenly pester you for no reason.  I’m just trying something new.  How’s your rhythm?  Is it working or could it use a little change?

Until next time!

Tremont St. Bath and Body: A Review

Hello, hello!  Since I haven’t been anywhere new to eat in a while, and I have no writerly topics to ramble about, I thought I would try my hand at a different kind of review.  Recently, one of my mentors/friends, Nina Schwartz, from SMU started selling her homemade soap.  You can find her story and products at her website, Tremont St. Bath and Body.  You can also keep up with her latest news by liking the shop’s Facebook page.

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All pictures are borrowed from the links above.

Back before Christmas, I messaged Nina to find out how her soaps worked on sensitive skin (before I bought some and had an unexpected allergic reaction or something).  Not only did she answer my questions, but she also sent me four bars to sample.  A Honey, Oatmeal, and Milk bar (currently not listed on the site), one called Perseverance (listed), an unscented/uncolored molded soap (see the picture of Clouds, Waves, Chrysanthemums below as an example), and one named Purple Zebra (also not currently listed).  As of today, I’ve only had a chance to try the first two, so I will be focusing on them.

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Clouds, Waves, and Chrysanthemums.

 

Aside from the beautiful designs, one of the first things I noticed about these soaps were the scents.  They range from no scent to a very mild aroma to more intense smells.  As I’ve said, I’ve only used the Honey, Oatmeal, and Milk bar, which had a subtly sweet smell, and the Perseverance, which is flavored with peppermint and rosemary, so it has a strong, in your face, kind of scent as you can imagine.  Personally, I enjoy the more intense aromas, but if you don’t, you might want to ask about bars that you aren’t sure of.

Another thing I tend to notice about soaps is whether they leave behind a greasy residue (I hate feeling slimy after a shower or after using a lotion).  I have dry skin, so I have to use moisturizing soaps, and it’s really difficult to find one that doesn’t leave me feeling gross.  Nina’s soaps didn’t have that problem.  In fact, most of them contain cocoa butter, shea butter, kokum butter, or some combination thereof to act as a moisturizer.  I was a little wary my first couple of uses, but to my surprise, the soap rinsed off easily and left me feeling moisturized, but not greasy.

I suppose my only complaints would be that the soaps dissolve much faster than the ones you buy at the store, and that the edges can be a little sharp in the beginning, especially on the large bars.  I got about seven uses out of the Honey, Oatmeal, and Milk bar, which is one of her medium sized bars, but I’m on my fourth or fifth use of Perseverance (one of her largest bars) and still have more than half left.  So, I guess the former complaint really depends on which soap you get and how often you use it (I use it once a week), and the latter simply requires a little user awareness.

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Perseverance.

 

Overall, I’m loving the soaps so far and plan on buying some when I come close to running out.  Check out the links above and see if you fall in love with any of the bars!  It’s totally worth it.

J-Rock: How I Became A Fangirl

Howdy all!  Last week, I asked for some suggestions on what to blog about, so Lew and Joe asked how I got into J-Pop/Rock.  It’s not really that long or interesting of a story, but they wanted to know.  So, please excuse me while I fangirl (get overly excited, squee, and babble on about a certain subject) over some of my favorite music and musicians while I relive those early days.

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And there are definitely some pretty men.  That’s Miyavi, by the way.

 

I guess I got into Japanese music the same way a lot of people do: anime.  I grew up with the Americanized version of Sailor Moon, then Pokémon and Digimon and Cardcaptor Sakura and all of that came along.  But it wasn’t until I was sixteen or seventeen (around the time I started looking to the Internet for friends instead of hanging out with my sister and her friends) when I began searching for fansubs and the original versions of the shows that I started my brief voyage into the world of J-Pop, then my descent into J-Rock.

It wasn’t just anime exposing me to the music, but also the friends I was making by hanging out in anime chatrooms.  (Do you even remember those?  The Yahoo chats?  Oh how I miss those days.)  It takes a lot for a theme song to entice me into looking it up, so I was a total n00b to the music compared to most of the people I met.  So, I listened to every song people recommended.  For example, one of the people I hung out with was a rabid fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, so for a while, I knew every song (and every version) in that series because he would insist I listen to them.  It wasn’t that I enjoyed everything I heard, but I was open to the possibility that I might like it.

Then, I got into YouTube.  Back in the day, before Google and Vevo and all of the legal stuff, YouTube was a wonderland of obscure music.  Plus, it was great about recommending things based (no matter how remotely) on whatever you were watching instead of just suggesting whatever happens to be popular that week, which is how I found my way into J-Rock and all its lovely subgenres.  I had my first brush with bands like Dir en grey (awesome if you like metal), Buck-Tick (kind of an 80s vibe), Versailles (symphonic metal), and Miyavi (guitarist).  From there, I just kind of dug around on my own to find things that I adore.  It also doesn’t hurt that most of the beautiful women are actually men (a fangirl topic for another day).

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Versailles.  They’re all men.  Yes, even him.

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Exist Trace.  And they’re all women.

 

It was just something that happened.  There was no big plan involved.  It was just a new obsession stemming from an old one, like a slow descent into madness.  We all have these types of love, so tell me about yours.  What’s your random obsession that makes people wonder how you got into it?  And how’d it happen?