Why Daily Word Prompts?

There are many sources in the world, virtual and otherwise, for inspirational quotes, messages meant to help you reframe your life or remind you that you’re on the right path. Words to encourage gratitude, love, laughter, pausing to smell roses, and so on. I am grateful when one of those messages is just what I need to hear.

Daily Word Prompt is not this kind of place. I’m thinking inspiration over inspirational. What’s the difference? Nothing, in general, other than my intention, and that’s for you to use the daily word as a jumping-off point, a springboard, a way in to your daily writing practice. It is unlikely you will find a whole new meaning to life when you see the word—although hey, writing from it just might bring that sort of thing on. However, I will make no guarantees!

The words are also meant for you if you’re not a writer—yet. Maybe you’re afraid to even think of calling yourself a writer but love putting your pen to the page. Maybe you just want to dabble. Maybe you’re another sort of artist, and this word might help that practice. Maybe you’re just a looky-loo. Welcome!!

These words are not meant to be prescriptive, or directive, and by that I mean that you are free to interpret them however you so choose. If the word is train, for example, think of the multiple meanings and go with any or all of them. Choo choo or sweat it out or stick it on the back of your wedding dress, it’s up to you.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m doing this. Simply, because it works. I’ve been doing daily word prompts for many years, which I’ve called writamins with various friends, as I’ve spoken about in various interviews, and I still do them now.

Why does it work? In part, because it has become a daily (or near-daily) habit—life does happen, now and then, in which case the words gather in a small drift and get used altogether, or serially—and that’s what gets the work done. In part, because I do it with writing friends via email and sometimes in person, and that adds accountability—and also an immediate audience.

The basis of my practice is the freewrite, and I’ve been doing that since the early 90s, a la Natalie Goldberg, which means you basically begin writing and keep going until you’re done, without editing or crossing things out. This can be a timed thing—our most-often used time period is ten minutes—or it can be until you’ve completed what you set out to do. But you most often don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s kind of the point, too. You write to write, and what you’re hoping to say will reveal itself as you go.

And… you tell the inner critic to keep quiet!

Sometimes I’ve incorporated the word of the day into a project I’ve already begun, something like folding berries into muffin batter. (I like baking, and its sweet metaphors.) In fact I have many stories and novel chapters that contain the words. Moth was one such word, for example, and I used it when writing my story “Black Forest,” in the collection The Pull of the Moon, to describe the colour of a specific gelato flavour at the Jean-Talon market in Montreal.

“The mothy one, for example, was Lawrence’s favourite. Noisette.”

Natalie G. also talks about the importance of “clearing the pipes” after a freewrite, which is easiest while with another person, when you can read aloud what you’ve written and then move on. This is the purpose of the email exchange, too, so I highly recommend finding another writing friend, anywhere in the world, and doing the daily words together. But don’t let this suggestion stop you: If it’s just you and the page, go for it.

I won’t be reading your work for this project. Although I would love the chance to see what you’re doing with the words, I have a few projects on the go at the moment and will need to focus on those. However, one of these projects is developing a variety of online classes for writers, so stay tuned! More details coming soon.

Device or notebook? That’s entirely up to you. I do both, although 90% of the time, it’s on real paper, with a pen, and then I type it up for emailing to my writing group. Sometimes I use the Notes feature on my iPhone. Sometimes it’s at 4 a.m., or on a plane, or at the beach. Try varying your location.

I’m also offering these daily word prompts because I feel grateful for what a simple word can offer, and how much the practice has helped me, and I’d like to give back to the writing community out there.

I sincerely hope these words will pull / push you to the page, and either help you begin a new way of writing, or keep your writing practice going strong.

Thanks for reading, and watch for the first Daily Word Prompt on Feb. 14th, on Instagram and in the IG feed in the sidebar!