Friday, May 5, 2023

PROMPT: The Verb!

I sadly confess: concerning the featured theme of our current blogs, 

I am not, nor have I ever been, a Devotee of Writing Prompts.

Should a writer or student relish such an exercise, I consult my 

“Writing Prompts” file and gladly comply.

Should a teacher or presenter put forth such an exercise in a class 

or workshop I’m attending, I seldom respond.

I happily confess, however: I am hopelessly devoted to prompting 

writers and students - urging, assisting, encouraging, coaching 

them - to keep keepin’ on, no matter the project, whether stalled, 

stopped or even stuck.

When it comes to prompt, the verb, my FOR HESITANT WRITERS 

file runneth over.

It holds strategies, techniques, tricks of the trade, tips, exercises 

and recommended books, including the oh, so understanding and 

oh, so instructive book Unstuck (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Most Readers have already met Unstuck’s author - writer, poet and 

Writing Coach Jane Anne Staw, my longtime friend I still fondly 

call Janie.

In July of 2020 I shared in a Wednesday Writing Workout one of 

her illuminating blog posts based on her book Small: The Little 

We Need for Happiness (Shanti Arts, 2017).

Lucky us, because once again, my dear friend graciously granted 

me permission to reprint her published words. This time I’m 

sharing a helpful Try This exercise from Unstuck to prompt any of 

our stuck readers to return to the work at hand.

The book’s subtitle says it all: A Supportive and Practical Guide to 

Working Through Writer’s Block.

In fourteen chapters that help the writer learn his or her own story, 

from “The Right to Write” to “What’s at Stake,” Unstuck lives up to 

its subtitle. Chapters 3 (“Flushing Out Our Enemies”) and Chapter 

6  (“Showing Up for Yourself”) especially spoke to me.

I’m hoping the essence of Chapter Five, “Thinking Small,” speaks 

to you.

Jane Anne-dash-Janie begins the chapter by sharing her two-word 


     “If I were to choose a mantra for my writing, it would be 

     Think small.  Each time I sit down to write, I begin by recalling 

     these two words. And whenever I feel myself slowing down too 

     much or veering off-track, I bring myself back by repeating 

     them. Think small, Jane Anne. Think small. Thinking small 

     actually helps us write big.  Instead of limiting you, thinking 

     small will set you free.”

She ends the chapter with this Try This:

     “Instead of thinking about all the writing you must do – or have 

     not gotten done – think about just one small part.  If you are 

     working on a book, focus on the first chapter only.  If it’s a legal 

     brief, concentrate on the first point you want to make.  If this 

     amount of writing feels overwhelming, narrow your sights even 

     more.  Think only about the first page or the first paragraph.  

     Then, when you have accomplished your goal, congratulate 

     yourself and negotiate the next small step.”


May the above exercise prompt you to think small and - continue

to write… BIG!

Thanks to Linda B at TeacherDance for hosting today’s Poetry 


And thank you, Janie, for once again sharing your smarts, 

expertise and guidance with our TeachingAuthors readers.


Happy Keepin’ On!

Esther Hershenhorn


P.S. from Carmela: Time is running out if you haven't yet entered our giveaway of Zeena Pliska's brand new picture book, Egyptian Lullaby (Roaring Brook Press)! Read this post for details.

1 comment:

April Halprin Wayland said...

I always love your posts, Esther. They energize. It's interesting that you and I have such different takes on the word "prompt" ~ for me , prompts are like being given a wrapped gift, and inside is a hint. The fun, for me, is figuring out what incident, story, or world I can build from that.🤎