An education in headlines

So I’m participating in a content creation challenge through copyblogger.com, and the first prompt for this month is a “creativity” prompt.

Now, my idea of a creativity prompt is a nudge that will spark my mind to develop writing that could be meaningful, writing that is maybe a little loose and wild in terms of scope.  Messy even. Maybe something like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages concept.

For my writing (at its best), that kind of work is eventually  going to lead to maybe a theme for a poem that includes lots of subtle word play or imagery that works together gently to all of a sudden hit the reader over the head with a complex understanding or feeling.

Technical, must-do writing isn’t creative writing to me, and prompts that spur me to do task-based work don’t feel creative at all.

So imagine how bummed I was to pop into the challenge today and see that the “creativity” prompt is to write a bunch of headlines.

Snooze.

I hate writing headlines. They’re very limiting, yet the must be grabby. They need to convey the essence of the story, but in only five words or so. And until I write a story, it’s hard for me to know the essence of the story.

So for this prompt, we’re supposed to write 20 or 30 headlines for an upcoming piece of content. Then, over the rest of the month, write a new one each day.

Yeah, I re-read the prompt with a scowl on my face.

Really? WTH. That doesn’t feel like creativity to me. That feels like, well, a task. Multiplied by 20 or 30.

And so, instead of writing headlines, I decided to write about how much I dislike writing headlines.

Voila!

In the end, my take on creativity prevailed and I came up with this post. Not too shabby for a creativity prompt after all.

And even better, in reflecting on what a “creativity” prompt is to me, and what headline writing is to me, I feel like I’m learning something about myself as a writer.

I put up walls when task writing is thinly veiled as “creative” writing. Yet when I have the space to work on creative writing (my memoir, poems for an event or chapbook, for instance), I can deal with the fact that the act of writing is a task. Although I suppose I already kind of knew that about myself, thinking about it in relation to work through this challenge might have some value.

Right now, I’m not sure what that value is. I don’t know how to make task writing feel more fun and free at work, but I suppose I should try the headline writing bit and see if I can find my way through it with some kind of creative spirit.

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