“What should I write about? “
This question, perhaps more than any other, is responsible for more procrastination than any in the history of authorship. It is the one that plagues writers of all ages and backgrounds, keeping them out of the seat, off the keyboard, and into the most mundane of household chores.
This is one reason why writing prompts can be so useful. There are lots of places to turn to for prompts: “The Time is Now” section of Poets & Writers, this section of The New York Times Learning Network, online algorithms, and irl dice games are just a few.
In the context of this unit, you will be creating and responding to prompts for your blogging. Blogs defy generic definition, but as Kevin Eagan explains in “The Blog as Literary Genre,” blogs grapple, meander, and search. Posts are like personal essays but they’re more playful, creative. And of course, they can also make use of the affordances of hypertext. Writers can embed links, images, gifs, videos, playlists, and other media.
Prompts from lived experience
Blog prompts can be derived from lived experience. Consider these two COVID-19-related prompts, for instance:
- Give us a tour of your current writing space or spaces. You might include video or images to help illustrate your post. To what extent does this space match your ideal writing space? To what extent is it a compromise given our circumstances? For example, do you share this space? Is this space contingent on schedules, weather, light?
- Self-care involves a balance between body, mind, and spirit. In what ways are you caring for your body through sleep, nourishment, and exercise? In what ways are you caring for your mind through meditation/focus, hobbies, and creativity/expression? In what ways are you caring for your spirit via connection, community, or mindfulness? Write about one area that you could improve in the next four weeks.
Prompts from readings
However, good also writing comes from regular and astute reading practices. Writers, in other words, need to read like writers (on the web or otherwise). And it helps when they can translate those practices into ideas.
Consider these prompts. Notice that both of them begin with a clear context (title/source/author), include a link, mix summary with quotation, and offer a clear direction for the writer. This I what I encourage you to do in your own prompts.
- In “Write It Down: Historian Suggests Keeping a Record of Life During Pandemic,” University of Virginia Professor Herbert “Tico” Braun suggests that daily writing can be important during this pandemic and that we can use the tools around us to do so. He says: “Many of us are writing today and producing our work on social media. It is an explosion. You can gather these voices, these experiences, all this creativity. They are all a record of our times. These voices are urgent.” Collect a voice from social media and begin a new post by sharing it. You’ll probably want to first contextualize the voice (Where did it come from? To what is is responding?), but then respond to it yourself.
- In his recent consumer tech column for The Washington Post, Geoffrey Fowler argued that in the time of the coronavirus so-called hermit tech or technologies that enable people to stay home “has a more urgent purpose than the luxury of convenience.” However he goes on to write that “It makes staying at home possible (and much more palatable) to people who can afford it.” How are you seeing hermit tech play out around you or in your families? Are you using these services? Are you employed by these services? Write a blog post that makes use of narrative and research to discuss the class divide in a gig economy fueled by hermit tech.
Where to post your prompts
To add a prompt, head to our BlackBoard site and look for the link on the left called “Post a prompt.” Expand upon an existing thread by replying to one posted or post a new one by clicking a “Create Thread” button. When creating a new thread use a descriptive title and paste your prompt in message box. Use links when referring to readings. When finished, click submit. As our prompts grow perhaps you’ll have suggestions on how we can organize them. I’m all ears!