For Whom Do You Write?

This post is “prompted” in part thoughts I’ve wanted to share for a while on blogging, and pensivity101‘s Truthful Tuesday prompt about blogging prompts felt like an opportune time* to finally write this. This is very meta.

*Yes, I’m aware that this was the Truthful Tuesday prompt from well over a week ago. I’ll come back to this point.

What I Like About Blog Prompts

1) Inspiration & Nudge

Lately, I’ve been in something of a blog-identity crisis. I lack the time and motivation to write the kind of Jewish-related content I originally intended to write here, there are only so many life non-updates and rants I can post here before I get sick of myself. I don’t always have either

  1. the ability or mental/emotional capacity to turn life frustrations into humor, music, or poetry or
  2. the desire to be so brutally honest and vulnerable on my blog.

And I’m kinda over writing poetry at the moment. I find myself wanting to write something, but it’s hard to pinpoint what.

Prompts, like The Autistic Composter‘s Questions Over Coffee that I recently discovered, have been good for inspiring me to write something when I don’t quite know what it is that I want to say. And sometimes, prompts provide that inspiration for a piece that may have been ruminating, but maybe I didn’t find the right hook yet. Like this post of thoughts I wanted to share about Jewish community was prompted by one of Fandango‘s Provocative Questions – and it’s since become the basis for the whole pond/community/housing search tortured analogy saga. Prompts can provide both the inspiration for something I never expected to write and the necessary nudge to write something that were already ruminating.

Sometimes the prompt is the spark I didn’t know I needed. Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

2) Sometimes, They Allow Me To Pleasantly Surprise Myself

I wrote poetry pre-blog and attended poetry workshops with renowned teachers pre-blog, and, at the risk of sounding conceited, I knew I was pretty good at writing poetry. This blog was never intended to be a poetry blog – I had offline poetry communities and I didn’t need validation that I could write poetry well.

But I couldn’t help but notice the wide variety of poetry prompts in the blog world. So, I started participating. And to be honest, I really expected this to be more poetry “muscle-stretching” vs. creation of work I’m truly proud of, if that makes sense.

But, I’ve been really impressed with some of my own prompt-response poetry. To the point where I’m almost mad I participated in these prompts by publishing on my own blog because it means I can’t pursue submission and publication under my real name.

I’ve written poetry that I surprised myself by writing in the first place by responding to prompts on my anonymous non-poetry blog that is so good that I’m kinda mad at myself for posting it. Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

3) Community-Building

I think the sense of community is probably the greatest strength of a well-run prompt. Look, the internet is a big, lonely place. Blogging helps build community. Prompts can create a sense of community rituals and norms. It’s been fascinating to see the way bloggers will show up for each other, even within the simple forum of a prompt response. And it’s incredible to see how a prompt “ritual” goes beyond that, like when fellow bloggers share sad news with other prompt participants who respond with tributes and memories.

To be clear, I think blogging without prompts can build community as well. But if you imagine the blog world as a religious community (bear with me), while you absolutely can and should socialize with fellow congregants outside of regularly scheduled services, some members will really appreciate the regular weekly meeting times to connect with their fellow congregants.

Stay with me; I’m going to come back to the blogging as religious community metaphor. Photo by Ferdie Balean:

What I Don’t Like About Prompts

Fair warning – lots of potentially unpopular opinions ahead!

1) There Are Prompts That I Just Don’t Like

There are prompts that just don’t speak to me because I’m not the target audience. For example (out of respect for the organizers, I won’t link because I am being somewhat negative):

  • Throwback Thursdays – because a) I’m not old enough to have interesting answers, and b) as an anonymous blogger, there’s a limit to how much I want to talk about where and how I grew up.
  • PAD/A-to-Z challenge, SeptSceneWriMo, Bloganuary, and anything requiring daily participation for an extended period of time – because I don’t blog daily and have no interest in doing so.
  • Tanka Tuesdays or anything that focuses on poetry form – because I’m not that interested in form poetry.
  • Any short story/flash fiction prompts – because I don’t write short story or flash fiction.

But look, that’s just life. Not everything is going to appeal to everyone and that’s ok.

I also think there are prompts that really don’t work well. There’s a lot I love about dVerse, but I think their Prosery prompts are their least successful. Making someone take a 10-word awkward line and use it verbatim in a 144-word piece is dictating a good 7% of the final piece, and actually more because it’s so hard to add any creative context when you can’t break up or change the prompt line at all. I’ve done this before and while I don’t necessarily dislike the resulting pieces, I feel like the prompt responses from both from myself and other bloggers, are generally not as good compared to other prompt response pieces. (Btw, all the links in this paragraph including that marked as “not as good” are my own work; I’m not going to publicly critique another blogger’s work here.)

I’ll be honest: I think some of my prompt-response poetry is B- or worse. “Bad grade” by Steven Vance is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

2) The Illusion Of Engagement

Per my previous point, I do think prompts can build a sense of community. But I also think that prompts can build an illusion of engagement as well. Posts written in response to prompts will drive up my stats, but how much of that is people actually interested in me/my writing and how much is people seeking reciprocity for me to respond to their prompt posts? The increase in stats due to prompt participation isn’t a true measure of increased engagement with my blog.

If we go back to the blogging-as-religious-community metaphor, you could think of prompts as the weekly religious services when everyone comes together. You’ll see more people at services and talk to more people afterwards when you exchange a metaphorical “Shabbat shalom” to them over kiddush (do non-Jewish religious services also serve food afterwards?) but are you really making more friends or building closer friendships? Then there’s also the timeliness of response as a factor. I’m tagging the Truthful Tuesday prompt to credit the inspiration for this post, but since I’m responding over a week late (life got in the way…) absolutely no one is going to actually read this post via the prompt. That’s just life.

Honestly, maybe that’s just reality. As Wynne Leon expressed on Wise & Shine, follower stats aren’t a great measure of engagement or community. Not all of our followers will care about everything we say. And even in blogging where we create more community through prompts, not all of our fellow prompt participants are going to be interested in our other writings. To go back to the religious community metaphor, some of these prompt participation connections will never go beyond a “Shabbat shalom” over kiddush, and that’s fine.

Maybe we’ll just be bloggers who only meet weekly over bagels and that’s ok. Photo by Lucie Liz from Pexels

3) Insularity

Let’s do a thought exercise: Imagine that someone who doesn’t know you, who has never heard of WordPress or Blogger or anything, and who doesn’t have a blog, manages to type a magical string of words into a search engine and somehow stumble upon your blog prompt post.

(I know, right? How incredible would that be if our SEO efforts actually worked!?!)

Back to the exercise, imagine that someone with absolutely no context has landed on your blog prompt post – would they have any idea of what the prompt is and how to participate? Would your post make them feel as they too could join the prompt?

There are blog prompts that make me feel like that random person on the outside without context. I’m not going to link because my feedback is a bit critical, but,

  • I have no idea how to do the MLMM Wordle – Do you have to use all the words or some of them? How many? Poem or prose? (And I’m even more confused about other MLMM prompts like Friday Faithfuls or Saturday Mix – what does that even mean?)
  • I feel stupidly confused about the A-to-Z challenge – what exactly is the topic?
  • And even for prompts where the directions seem pretty straightforward, there are prompts where I question if I am entirely welcome. For example, can I post in a Go Dog Go Promote Yourself Monday if I’m not otherwise that active in the Go Dog Go community?

I’m not blaming the prompt organizers or participants – no reason to not use tags or not keep repeating the rules if everyone already knows the drill! But this means that there are prompts that can feel quite insular.

Rationally, I know this probably isn’t the case, but there are blog prompts that make me feel like an outsider. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For Whom Do You Write?

To me, all of this points back to the larger question of for whom do you write. For yourself? For your community/friends? For the world at large? Maybe we write for different people at different times or maybe we write for all of them.

I’ll offer some thought on writing for each of them:

Writing For Yourself

If you write for yourself, you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you want if it feels authentic to you. And I wrote “fuck” intentionally to make a point – profanity is authentic to me and my blog, and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I use it. There are readers who don’t like profanity, and that’s fine. And there are bloggers who avoid profanity for the comfort of their readers, and that’s fine too. For me, writing authentically for myself means using profanity at times.

Also, if you aren’t writing for yourself, you really should be. The reality is that almost none of us will become famous or make any real money from blogging, so you might as well write for yourself in addition to whomever else you’re writing for. If, in the course of blogging and responding to prompts, you don’t feel like you’re writing for yourself, it might be a sign to take a step back and figure out how to incorporate prompts in a way that feels more authentic to you.

Don’t forget to also write for you. Photo by Nicolas Messifet on Unsplash

Writing For Your Community

I get the “blogging as religious community” metaphor may seem weird and unflattering to an atheist blogger, but I want to be clear – I think community, blog community and religious community (which often goes beyond mere religious observance) is a good thing. The world is a big place. Communities help us create spaces where we feel at home. A huge portion of my life is spent actively participating in a religious community; when I liken blogging to a religious community (because it’s the type of community I am most familiar with), it’s a compliment and credit to the blogging community.

I see value in participating in prompts if it speaks to you, similar to how I think there’s value in attending weekly religious services. But I also think there’s value in checking out a fellow blogger’s off-prompt post every so often. And I get it – as readers, we have limited time to read, like, and comment, and frankly, we’re not necessarily interested in every post that another blogger writes. Hell, there are plenty of times that I don’t even manage to read fellow prompt participant responses. But if prompts are the “Shabbat shalom” greeting after services, reading other bloggers’ off-prompt posts are the conversations you have other times of the week.

We don’t only have to talk once a week. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Writing For The World At Large

Let’s be honest – public blog or not, the world at large is not actively reading my blog or your blog or anyone else’s. But if you are writing for an audience outside of the WordPress community familiar with the prompts, make the prompts more accessible to an outsider. Post the rules somewhere conspicuous (looking at you, MLMM!) Post titles of #prompttags without context do not make for a post that makes sense to someone not in the loop. If blogging is a religious community, ask yourself if the doors are as open to visitors and newcomers as they should be.

The world probably isn’t reading your blog. The question is (assuming you want the world to read your blog in the first place) if the world did read it, would the world feel welcome? Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

If this long-winded post of potentially unpopular opinions prompted any thoughts, drop a comment. And yes, pun absolutely intended.


  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts here, JYP. I’m grateful for prompts similar to you since I often want to write but have nothing to say publicly. (It may appear that I share a lot, but there’s plenty I don’t or can’t.) There are too many prompts in “our community” for me to respond to, so I definitely pick and choose, generally preferring ones where I don’t have to save yet another image in my media storage. I’m also not fond of a huge number of rules, which imo takes something out of the prompt arena and forces replies into a box. It’s more fun for me to see a variety of replies and not feel so restricted in my own response. Finally, it does sometimes feel like a community here, but other times someone just poofs and there’s no way to contact them…

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think there’s an art to a good prompt – something that gives enough direction to get the writing gears going without dictating too much of the response. I’ve gone rogue on some prompts (if I have to choose between following the prompt precisely or writing a better poem, I’m always going to pick the better poem, you know?) and I’ll have some prompt organizers who respond well and some who do that finger shake “tsk tsk” in the comments, and I always think they’re kind of missing the point.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. From time to time I’ll dabble in prompt challenges but I’m not religious with it like I’m my religion. My only purpose for partaking in prompts is because, as you rightfully pointed out JYP, I write for myself with the intent to share both my words and vulnerabilities. You need not be so strident in writing for yourself that you lose all sense of humor and humanity like I’ve read in many of those groups looking to confine not only what you write about but how to express it to their liking. If people are unwilling to accept your opinions or creative works. F- ck them! And I rarely post that word with conviction.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you. I’ll dabble in prompts as they interest me, but I can’t follow them religiously either. I also find that when my prompt response doesn’t feel like me at all and doesn’t feel like it belongs on the blog, it’s a sign for me at least to step back from participating. I’m not completely opposed to posting something just for the boost to the stats, but that shouldn’t be the only reason for writing.

      Yes, say that word (and all your others) with conviction!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s the question it all comes down to, right? Who do we write for. I think you can write for yourself and also want to be read. But you’re right, the reciprocity factor in community prompts doesn’t add value in the long run. But since I mostly write poetry (and not the micropoetry, easy to read kind), the best way (only way?) to get regular feedback is through community prompts. It’s a hard decision for poetry bloggers, so whatever works and keeps the inspiration going.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting to hear your perspective as a poetry blogger (I write poetry here too, but I self-describe this blog as not a poetry blog). I think you have a point in that while there’s a lot of poetry bloggers on WP, it’s also so saturated that someone might not read your piece without the prompt to boost visibility. I But yeah, I definitely question how much of my poetry readership is genuinely into my work and how much is reading for reciprocity. And reciprocity is part of building the community – I don’t want to knock that! But I take the boost in stats with a grain of salt.


      • Yeah, also within communities you do find solid friendship and support for your work, which is quite lovely. I draw a lot of inspiration from some of those poets. You can only hope that circle will get larger eventually. But none of that should interfere with the actual writing itself… ideally.

        Liked by 1 person

        • For sure. I didn’t want to get to the point where writing poetry in response to prompts was starting to feel like marketing my blog because of the jump in stats – “poetry” and “marketing” are two words that shouldn’t belong in the same sentence! Lol. In all seriousness, one reason why I’m taking a break from posting new poetry here was because it was starting to feel a bit perfunctory.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I like this exploration of the topic. I’d like to think I write for everyone, but when looked at objectively, my work is definitely catered more towards existing WordPress users. Maybe I should take that into account and try to shape my blog into a more ‘universal’ place. Thanks for this food for thought!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that naturally, we are going to gravitate to writing to a particular audience because we do have our particular interests and backgrounds. I don’t always realize how badly I’ve explained something about Judaism unless a commenter mentions it to me – and I want my blog to be accessible to readers of all backgrounds! But at the same time, I am Jewish and want to write about the ways in which that affects my life. It wouldn’t make sense to have a blog that’s so universal that it lacks individuality. I actually think that you do a good job of making your blog accessible to a broader audience of people who aren’t necessarily bloggers. Many of your posts on writing, motivation, productivity, etc. have appeal beyond existing WP users.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting points of view. I write mainly for myself and the pleasure of writing. I started my blog about ten years ago and I immediately asked for prompts from my family and friends. I didn’t know that was a thing then. If anyone have me a word or phrase to write about I wrote about it and dedicated the post to them. That was fun. Then I realised that I didn’t need those prompts to write and to be read and just used random stuff all around me. Over the years various themes have evolved and I’ve realised that me blog is part memoir, part diary, but still very random! I love it when people acknowledge that they read it, and I have built up a small collection of readers who follow me. That’s very flattering. But unexpected. I write too irregularly to be tied down to particular writing communities. I like to dip in and out. I enjoy reading some poetry on the blogs but though often clever it’s frequently too formulaic and that shows. But I would never criticise. I know the effort that people put into this. I enjoy your blog for its humour and honesty. And yes, in the Catholic Church there is frequently food and drink after Mass. not always though. Sikh Gurdwaras always have food available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you have the right idea. If you aren’t writing for yourself at all, then why do it?

      As for prompts and communities, I also want to feel like I can dip in and out. I definitely think there is value to having a blogging community, but I never want to feel as though I’m spending my time blogging in a perfunctory way, like writing or reading prompt responses that don’t speak to me or that don’t fit my blog. I’d rather skip that prompt and rejoin the community when it makes sense.

      I agree with you about prompt response form poetry actually. I’ve spent time in offline poetry communities, and WP is the only place I’ve found with such an interest in form-based poetry. I haven’t really seen that elsewhere. Personally, form poetry isn’t something I gravitate towards.

      Thank you for telling me about Catholic churches and Sikh Gurdwaras – I was really curious about this!


  6. I tend to see it simpler than that. I write for myself, period.
    Even if I happen to be promoting some cause (and I woiuld put a religion into that category), I am writing because *I* am motivated to do so.
    Besides, I can look at a good post (which may be prose or poetry or whatever), I’m satisfied, I’m proud of it… it’s *me* who gets the warm fuzzy feelings. I’m the beneficiary.
    Similarly, if I don’t feel like writing, I take the day off.
    My point is: it’s all about me. I’m not beholden to anybody.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The idea of responding to prompts sounds nice to get involved every so often. I’m technically never short of stuff I can say (I can seriously go on and on and on and on and on and on and on if I get started), but I like to hear the thoughts of the people around me. However, I tend to go on WordPress, write, then go off; I tend to read peoples’ blogs based on my mood instead of feeling inclined to keep up. That and for so many other reasons, I unfortunately don’t often see any prompts.

    Oh yeah, that and I’m incredibly shy, so it takes a while for me to pluck up the courage to get around to commenting on something I find interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. WordPress can be incredibly addictive. I started this blog originally because I needed to do something during the pandemic and blogging was something I’d always thought about. But actively participating in a blog community – writing your own posts and reading and commenting on others’ posts and doing it all the time – it’s incredibly time-consuming. I don’t regret starting a blog, but ever since I did, my already poor time management skills have gotten so much worse. I feel like being part of a community – religious community, blog community, etc. – doesn’t sound like it would be so time-consuming on the surface, but it definitely can be. I’m happy I started my blog and that I’ve met so many people and read so much good content, but I do wish I was better at managing how to fit blogging and reading blogs into my schedule.

      I’m not shy at all, and yet I’ve still found some blog prompt communities insular such that I question whether I am welcome. Even some individual bloggers with public blogs don’t necessarily feel approachable. It can be a tricky balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I pretty much ignore the WP prompts because I plan and outline my posts well ahead of their publishing dates. Generally speaking, I fill out the outlines a day or two ahead of when I want it to appear on line. I’m also unhappy with auto-complete in comments sections because they short-circuit my thought processes. (This particular comment section is plagued with auto-correct.) Generally, I have the same feelings about auto-correct and prompts.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for taking part here, late or not, it doesn’t matter as I read all responses to the prompts I set. Lots of views and opinions, which to me are good. As for writing, I write for me. My blog is a mish mash of different things, though there are topics I avoid or only mention casually.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for posing a thought-provoking prompt question, and thank you also for accommodating my late response! I don’t know how other people respond so quickly if it’s not a poetry prompt. I think you had another Truthful Tuesday about tradition that I started drafting a response to, but then got carried away and busy with other things such that I never finished that one either.

      You write for you, but you also support a blogging/writing community by hosting prompts. Not always easy to balance individual and community needs but you seem to be doing it well.


  10. I’m laughing about the SEO efforts really working and nodding my head about writing for ourselves and being authentic. Thanks for the shout out and here’s to writing prompted and unprompted in 2023!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I never seem to know about these prompts until someone whose blog I read does one. If it strikes my fancy, I may go root it out and do my own, but most of the time it does not–I enjoy reading others’, though. Sometimes the picture prompts will stir something, though, again, usually not, but it’s all in what kind of mood I’m in.
    I’m not big on the question type prompts. “What was the most embarrassing thing you did,” or “Chocolate or Vanilla??” I’ll read’em, as I said. Some people are pretty witty and anything can be fodder.
    I’m in that school that thinks definite rules or parameters like using certain words, or sticking to so many words, or whatever, actually do help the creative process, though i’m not sure how. I think restrictions force us to come up with creative solutions, and it may be just that simple. On the other hand, who needs rules? Both approaches can and do work. Depends on the person, or the mood of a person or the lunar phase.
    I wrote a short piece once because someone sort of goaded me into writing a story about ruby slippers and peanut brittle. (Not sure how we all got on those subjects.) Challenge accepted. I saw only one way out, and wrote it, and I thought the end product was kind of fun and interesting.
    Not sure about writing for the world at large. I’ll stick to my 150 people. ( Interesting read: )

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do hear you on the rules and restrictions thing. Funny, I hear something similar from rabbis telling how following all the rules of Judaism leads to a more meaningful, spiritual, better life. And getting back to writing, I have written a lot of great work, online and offline, to prompts that had a bunch of requirements. But at a certain point, as both a Jew and a writer, I take a step back and say, “you know what, I’m finding this rule/restriction pretty meaningless and actually it’s making my life/writing worse” and then I forgo it. Not everyone will make that decision, but if a rule/restriction isn’t working for me, I’m absolutely not above skipping it.

      Yeah, finding out about prompts and joining them does feel like trying to find and join a club sometimes. I’m finding it nice to do at times, but if I’m not at all inspired by the particular prompt, I’d rather just skip it than participate out of obligation.

      I’m curious about your ruby slippers + peanut brittle story. I bet your 150 readers will enjoy it.


  12. Me, I’m not really a prompt. I did a few early on but they didn’t really play well with the regulars I abandoned them (the prompts). This leads into my next point which is that I don’t write for myself, I write for what I worry the readers are going to think. This isn’t really ideal and I know I should write more what I want to. The whole reason I started my blog was to talk about any personal stuff I wanted to and then, just like in real life, I got crippled worrying about what people would think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I don’t write for myself, I write for what I worry the readers are going to think. ” – honestly, I think a lot of bloggers/writers do this and don’t admit it. I’ll let you in on a secret or two:

      1) While I might come across as an open book since I write plenty of unflattering things about myself/my marriage, and my tolerance for TMI & NSFW content is relatively high, however, there are things that I want to write about and that I’m terrified to write about here because of what my readers will think.

      2) Every time I post that I’m “taking a break from blogging”, it means that actually, I really want to write something personal, but it will be offensive, tone-deaf, and/or I feel like I’ll cause my readers to think less of me. I “take breaks” to keep me from blogging too impulsively. But I don’t think this is a good thing. And yes, creating an anonymous blog was supposed to be a space where I could write things like this, but you know how it goes…

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is interesting about your blogging breaks. My impulsive drafts are usually screeds that turn out to be really mortifying in the light of day, so I usually sleep on those. I don’t know why we care so much. I have a couple of people, I’m thinking of one in particular, who live rent-free in my head and sit on my shoulder while I type no matter what it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. too funny and I get it.,

    “But if you imagine the blog world as a religious community (bear with me), while you absolutely can and should socialize with fellow congregants outside of regularly scheduled services, some members will really appreciate the regular weekly meeting times to connect with their fellow congregants.”

    I so wish I could be a joiner but then I”d never have time to write what I want to actually say or do with little downtime. I do love the camaraderie of everyone who participates and they do look fun though, I gave up going to church a long time ago and I’m not going back anytime soon.

    With that said, I adore our community and we find who we are supposed to find here where we can authentically honor each other.


    Liked by 1 person

    • “I so wish I could be a joiner but then I”d never have time to write what I want to actually say or do with little downtime.” – 100%. Some of these prompts feel like losing too much of my individual blog focus to participate fully in the community. I think this balance between individual needs and community exists outside and inside the blog world.


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