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Twice a week I teach a prompt writing class. We write to a prompt, provided by me, without editing, thinking, or worrying. The rules are: Let it rip. This past week the prompt was: Running out of something. Here’s what I wrote.


This morning, I felt as though I was running out of fresh ideas for prompts. I sat at my desk and looked out the window and said out loud, “I know you’re out there.” The leaves rustled in the breeze showing their white undersides. It felt like a taunt. A tease. “You’re looking too hard,” the leaves said. “You want too much. Your head is too filled.”

I know. I know. I know.

But it doesn’t change the fact that I sometimes feel I am running out of ideas for prompts. And it doesn’t change the fact that I believe there are a million ideas surrounding me that I’m just not capturing. They are like little fairies in the woods. Lithe and free and quick and laughing at the lumbering writer who tries to catch them. They call out, “Here we are. Here we are. Here we are,” and then vanish, a puff of smoke left behind. An idea that could have been mine, but instead remains its own.

I wonder if I shouldn’t go to a mall. Not that there is a store where I can purchase ideas, but that it might help to expose myself to the mass of humanity. Perhaps ideas among people are less illusive. Less playful and teasing. In the mall I might see a mother, harried and stressed, tugging a child behind her like a suitcase – and this might trigger an idea for a prompt, or a story. I might overhear a man tell someone on the other end of his cell phone that he is in a meeting. “Just taking a break,” he adds, realizing his friend might overhear the muzak, the clang of cash registers, the sloosh of Coca-cola descending over a cup of ice.

I might sit in a mall and capture the rhythms of conversation in my notebook. I might find ideas jumping onto the page instead of hiding on the undersides of leaves among the eggs of insects.

The woods are my home. There, a deep peacefulness settles over me. The woods make my mind go cottony like a cloud. Thoughts are less important. They flit through and don’t land. They are like the waterbugs across the surface of the pond. Glittering in the sunlight they skim across the surface before being eaten by turtles and fish. They do no mind being turtle food, or fish food, or eventually fertilizer dropped by a heron lifting off from the branch of a tree. They are afraid of nothing. They are not even afraid to be my ideas, the ones we use for prompts to write about on Friday mornings. But ooh – they do love a chase.