Pass the sick bag, Alice*

Well, here we are at the end of August and self-doubt may be starting to creep into WordPress’ ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’:

“Are writing prompts a useful exercise, or do you find them to be too limiting and/or hokey?”

Yes, I do find writing prompts useful as a supplement to my own sparse powers of imagination. However, I don’t find them limiting (I’m assuming that only an unreconstructed pedant would) because they are no more than a launch-pad for my own ideas.

Whenever I might happen to have one.

In working my way through this year of writing prompts, I’ve reserved – and exercised – the right not to do the ones that I don’t wish to, most of which seem to fall into one of these categories:

  • Any that invite me to expound (= inflict) my opinions on religion or politics. These are automatically off-limits.
  • Likewise, I’ll always pass on anything that demands more personal information than I’m willing to disclose (isn’t this enough?).
  • Those that ask me to base a post on the fourth word on the third page of the last book I read, or something of that ilk. They just get right on my pectorals.

Hey, if you want to do it, go ahead. It’s just not for me.

So far so good: but then we get to ‘hokey’, which is where I start to lose it big time. This word isn’t in common usage outside North America, but it’s well-defined on you-know-where as: ‘mawkishly sentimental’ or ‘noticeably contrived’. Like ‘family-oriented’ US sitcoms. Or this:



To judge from the number of candy-coated, ‘inspirational’ emetics blogs that I’ve – accidentally, I assure you – stumbled across in the blogverse, quite a lot of people seem to lap up prompts like the ones I’ve reproduced below. I’m afraid they just get me reaching for the Gaviscon:

  • ‘When was the last time someone told you they were proud of you?’ Sorry, but in my book this ranks as self-aggrandisement and I’d sooner pull out my own teeth with rusty pliers.
  • ‘Who’s the most important person in your life?’ I know, she knows and if you read this blog with any degree of regularity so do you.
  • ‘Write about something you consider ugly…but try to find beauty, or a sense of hope’. Or denial. Okay: Mussolini got the trains running on time. Will that do?
  • ‘Write a letter to the personality trait you like least’. I suppose that would be false modesty. But character flaws can’t read, so don’t be silly.

Anyway, good luck to those bloggers on their particular ‘journey’ (and that’s another thing). It’s their trip, but I’m not on it.

Bah, humbug.

* * * * * *

* If you’re wondering about “Pass the sick bag, Alice”, then you are obviously unfamiliar with the late Sir John Junor, for many years the notoriously acerbic editor of the notoriously right-wing ‘Sunday Express’ UK newspaper. HIs political views might have been obnoxious, but at least he had the saving grace of zero tolerance for cant and mawkish sentimentality, to which this phrase would be his withering response.

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