Write On

March 12, 2003

Keeping a journal, and personal writing in general, are topics very dear to my heart. Yet despite my love for the act of writing, I sometimes become stale, run out of ideas, and can find no story to tell. I am always on the lookout for ways to augment and enhance my writing, whether that be through writing prompts or other projects not devoted specifically to the pen. I have written previously about keeping travelogues and lists of personal factoids, both things I’ve enjoyed immensely. Now, however, I want to introduce you to some wonderful writing projects found on the Internet.

Many people, when they set out to write a journal or something personal, are daunted by the concept of length. Some of us have the misconception that something short is insufficient to tell a story, or to relate enough information to be understood. This, of course, is not at all the case.

The 100 Words (http://www.100words.net/) project is proof positive of the concept that short, can indeed, be very sweet. In fact, the whole aim of the site is to be concise, to pick one topic, one idea, one something, and encapsulate it into no more and no less than one hundred words. The project runs on a monthly basis, in the sense that participants are required to write an entry every day for a month, on whatever topic they wish, and post it to the website – typos, bad grammar, and all. At the end of each month, if a person has participated every day, their entire stock of entries is made public for all to see. It does not matter if the entries are poetry, fiction, fact, fantasy, or prose, thematic, formulaic or otherwise – the point is simply to write. It is an excellent project on many levels, particularly for anyone who might want exercises in being more concise, or folks wanting to stretch writing muscles in small steps at a time.

If you’ve been writing a long time, perhaps talked of the minutia of your day, maybe told all your childhood stories, or tackled all the issues of the world that strike a chord with you, then you might be feeling as if you’ve come to the end of an inspiration rope. It is a frustrating feeling I have faced many times myself. It is in this area that the World Wide Web excels in providing new directions and perspectives. One of the most popular ways of doing this – of providing a spark – is simply asking questions.

The If Project (http://ifproject.com/) is one such provider of questions. Terry’s brainchild has been running since September of 2000, and without fail, a new question is posted on the first day of every month. These questions are personal, sometimes very deep, and require introspection and imagination. They usually aren’t difficult questions, in the sense of not being hard to answer, yet they still provide some difficulty. They still call for us to – as I said – look inward and perhaps address moral and philosophical, as well as social, issues. One of my favourite questions posed on the website was from December 2000 (http://ifproject.com/0012.html): If you were able to lend one of your five senses to a person born without, which one would you give? What would you forgo so another could experience? This project welcomes you to share your answers by providing space for web links, in case you’ve made your answers public on your own web space. Your own website is not required, however; The If Project’s owner will post your entries on her own space if you wish it.

Random Acts of Journalling (http://www.word-windmill.com/windmills/random/) is similar to the above in that it is run on a monthly basis and provides space for links to your answers if you’ve put them on the Internet, but it doesn’t confine itself to just one question, or just one theme. The site’s creator provides many different kinds of prompts to help get the writing juices flowing including questions, photographs, quotations from books, other quotations, a poem-writing prompt, and more. Participants can respond to as many of the different prompts as many times as they wish to. The only thing that is asked in return, is that when you submit the links to your answers or responses, you share a writing prompt of your own.

If one question isn’t enough, or if you want something more frequent than once a month, you might wish to check out Friday Group Therapy (http://brian.peace.us/therapy/), which posts a themed series of seven questions once a week. The issues are personal and wide-ranging, and are sparked by what the site owner finds in the news. This week’s issue, for example, is based on a young girl (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=578&e=3&cid=578&u=/nm/20030221/ts_nm/health_girl_dc)who received donated organs of the wrong blood type, and, as Group Therapy’s creator Brian Peace states, “This week’s Therapy session revolves around incompetence.” This project, just like The If Project, provides you space to share your answers via web links.

Not all of us want to consider deeply personal issues all the time, though. There are days we feel like writing but don’t want to face anything more complex than what we might have had for lunch or what our favourite films are. There are several projects catering to this more casual approach.

The Friday Five (http://fridayfive.org/) is a perfect example of the personal without being too involved. As the FAQ states, “The Friday Five questions were never meant to be deep and thought-provoking. They have always been basic questions that just about anyone can answer.” Each set of five questions, posted once per week, usually carries a theme or at least some binding tie. This week’s theme, for example, is reading material that covers what your favourite poem is, what you’re currently reading, and what your favourite book is. This project, too, provides space for you to either link to your answers or share them via a message board. The site’s creator welcomes you to share any theme or question ideas you might have.

Similar to the Friday Five, is the Weekly Wrap-Up (http://www.mariwood.com/weeklywrapup/). Each week five questions are posed that might involve nothing beyond the casual, or they could cover topics more in-depth. This week’s topic, for example, is feelings. The questions range from asking what makes us feel happy, sad, or angry, to what emotions we experience most frequently. You may post links to your own answers via the message board provided.

Whatever your taste, desire, or need, the World Wide Web is an endless source of writing projects of all types; projects guaranteed to exercise a variety of writing and thinking muscles. What I’ve listed above is only a very tiny sample of what’s available, so if none of the above are to your liking, a web search should enable you to find something that is more suitable. Moreover, how you answer them need not be confined to the Internet. You can take whatever prompts you find, and apply them to a paper journal as well. It’s up to you. The bottom line is, of course, that there is always a way to get around writer’s block or to get started in writing to begin with – you just have to keep your eyes open. You never know from where inspiration will strike.

Lonita has been an AU student since early 2002, and is studying towards a Bachelor of General Studies in Arts & Science. She enjoys writing, creating websites, drinks far too much tea, and lives in hopes of one day owning a plaid Cthulhu doll. The most exciting thing she’s done so far in her lifetime is driven an F2000 racecar, and she’s still trying to figure out how to top that experience. Her personal website can be found at http://www.lonita.net and what you can’t find out about her through that, you can ask her via email: lonita_anne@yahoo.ca