How Visual Prompts Help me Through Assignments

Ceire plans out the structure of her short story with colour-coded post-its.

Ceire plans out the structure of her short story with colour-coded post-its.

With the deadline for 3rd-year dissertations looming, it’s very easy to get flustered and lose track of where you want your writing to go. Suddenly you hit a point where you’ve gone off on a tangent. You can’t remember how you ended up here or how you wanted to proceed. You’ve fallen into the miserable depths of writer’s block and nothing can save you…

Nothing, except, in my experience, post-it notes.

I get through a ridiculous number of post-it notes every term. My room is flooded with them. I have post-it notes stuck to my laptop with research prompts and lists of deadlines. Post-it notes on my wall list every scene of the creative part of my dissertation, colour-coded depending on what form each section of the piece takes (which currently means green for text, orange for comic strips). I have a series of mini character profiles, each one on a post-it above my desk so that while I’m writing I can remember how a particular character would act and react in different situations.

It may sound a little obsessive, but I don’t know how I’d cope without them. All these visual prompts enable me to remember exactly where I want a piece to go, and when the dreaded writer’s block strikes (because it is real and it can be a massive blow to your confidence), I know not to panic, and to simply consult the notes right in front of me. There I will find the next section of the story and be able to carry on and, hopefully, get to the end.

This tactic is also incredibly handy for planning a piece. You can simply write down each point or scene you want to include in your work, and then rearrange them to find the best structure for your writing. It doesn’t have to be a fictional story, you can use post-its to help write essays and case studies as well. I find that once you have your ideas physically in front of you, it’s easier to see which ones fit together, which ones you could combine, and sometimes, which ones you might scrap.

There are other ways of using visual prompts to help with writing too. Whiteboards can be especially useful when planning a piece. Somehow, the abilities to rub ideas out means that you are less precious about those brilliant ideas and characters that just don’t fit with your story. Mind maps are also useful as they help you to draw links between different ideas and structure a piece in a more concise and coherent way.

There is no right way to plan your writing, and different methods and processes suit people differently. And of course, there are always those lucky few people who seem to be able to just sit at a keyboard and let the story write itself. However, if you find you are getting stuck, I definitely recommend using a visual prompt of some kind. I know that I would be struggling a lot more if I couldn’t see the structure and events of my dissertation laid out in front of me as I write it.

by Ceire Warren

Sherezade Garcia Rangel