The perils of the writing prompt: a personal reflection

‘Through the window’ is WordPress’s very well-intentioned series of daily prompts for inspiration-deficient bloggers like myself. Today (29th Jan) is “look out of your window and describe what you see”.

Well. Let’s see. My office has a window that looks out into a mini atrium. To call it an atrium is grandiose to say the least. It’s more of a hollow space five storeys above a car park. If I look down into it (which my wife strongly discourages in case the kids also have a look) I can see three empty parking spaces.

Sometimes (in fact every day if I’m being bitchily truthful) one of our neighbours ‘warms up’ her old VW in this underground car park, sending plumes of heady carbon monoxide up into our apartment.

From our front room window this morning I saw an enormous frond of foliage drop from one of the 50 foot palm trees across our street. I couldn’t see any cause for this. It was as if the tree had heaved a sigh and decided that enough was enough. On such a hot day, I strongly sympathised with the tree. It must be fed up of having simply to endure. My yoga session yesterday helped me further to identify with this poor exasperated organism. Having struck its pose it is doomed to hold it indefinitely.

Anyway, to cut a meandering blog entry blessedly short, it turned out that there was a man from the council up the tree, pruning it with a bloody great machete. No ladder, no safety equipment. Just a whopping machete. If he’d tried that in England, he’d probably have been surrounded by marksmen by now.

So there you have it: views from two windows. I am now going to attempt a remarkable feat of rhetoric in concluding this blog entry by giving you a feeling of having come full circle AND linking this entry to education (which is what the blog is supposed to be about)…

I haven’t read tomorrow’s writing prompt yet (‘Sort through the contents of a bathroom bin and write a haiku about the first thing that you grab a hold of’) but I have learned that the act of writing is a communicative one with purpose. You have endured a piece of purposeless navel-gazing (albeit a navel that somehow looks out onto my street). Every week I set my students a diary task (‘I am a walrus. Discuss.’). Diaries and blogs are not quite the same thing, I understand that, but the purpose comes with the sense of audience. Who am I talking to and to what purpose? A prompt can set me writing like a mechanical monkey, but without a sense of audience I am simply spewing verbal carbon monoxide up your atrium.

(Did you like what I did there?)


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