I attended a workshop on spoken word poetry with my super-talented pal, Outspoken Bean, and he shared some of the writing prompts he uses with his students to stimulate creative thinking. He offered one that’s as much fun at dinner parties as it is for pen monkeys looking for inspiration: it’s called What Is/It Is. Here’s how you do it:
1) give everyone two blank index cards or scraps of paper
2) on one, write a question that begins with “What is…” e.g. “What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?” or “What is your personal theme song?” or “What is wrong with your hair?”
3) on the other, write an answer that begins with “It is…” e.g. “It is the fastest way to fall out of love.” or “It is the metallic taste of fear.” or “It is blue.”
4) shuffle them up and hand them back out so each person has a new combination.
5) take turns reading them aloud.
Some of them will end up being meaningless, some ridiculous, some funny and some, thought-provoking. We all agreed that the pair I ended up with was the most compelling. So next time you’re staring at a blank page or running out of conversation at a cocktail party, try it. Ask a question nobody else is asking, and see what the answer may be.