Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blogging from A to Z: Q is for The Quest (Best Writing Prompt EVER)

During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays).  I had such a good time with it that I'm doing it again this year.  I'm loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat.  I'm starting with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Click on the A to Z logo on the lower left sidebar for links to many other bloggers participating in the challenge.

Here's a magic formula for writing great stories. All you need to do is fill in the blanks:

"I went to ______, looking for _____ and was surprised to find _____, which taught me _____."

I got this tip from this great writing book by Paul Spenser Sochaczewski, who describes this prompt as essentially turning your story from "I went here, and did this, and then that, and ate that, blah blah bor-ing," into a quest.  From the profound to the mundane, it has worked for me every single time.

"I went to every bar in St Augustine, looking for the best margarita in town, and was surprised to find that I gained ten pounds, which taught me that I don't have the metabolism of a 25-year-old any more." I ate a lot of tasty Mexican food along the way, as well. It was a great quest for starting conversations with the locals -- everyone seemed to have an opinion or a suggestion for a place to try.

"I went to Jerusalem, looking for God, and was surprised to find ... nothing, which taught me that it had to come from within, where it had been inside me all along." In my mind, I remember buying biblical-looking sandals and walking ancient stones tinted gold by the late afternoon light and trying to feel something bigger than myself.

"I went to the Caribbean, looking for peace and quiet and relaxing in the beauty of nature, and was surprised to find I had arrived in the middle of Carnaval season, which taught me that in order to have the best times, you have to go with the flow."

What I thought I was getting: view from a hike, Virgin Gorda, 2004

What I found: Carnaval parade, Aruba, 2015 -- high energy excitement, loud music, and partying 
Try it yourself in the comments -- fill in the blanks: "I went to ______, looking for _____ and was surprised to find _____, which taught me _____." And if it inspires a blog post of your own, please post a link!


  1. I went to Italy looking for great art, and was surprised to find (make) new friends from Australia, which taught me that the world is really quite small, and everyone loves Italy. This is a stretch, but good way to approach a quest

  2. This is such a great post! For sure it works in the examples you give. It sure invites fun and interesting reading. I will have to remember this. Now, let's try it, locally...

    I went to the mailbox looking for the owners' mail and was surprised to find a picturesque stream, nostrils full of fresh air and a happy dog walking beside me, which taught me that living in the woods on a big property has its charms. :-)

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

  3. I went to this blog, looking for a good Q story, and was surprised to find that margaritas come in different glasses and not just margarita glasses, which taught me that secretly I lust over a great variety of real glass glasses. (And now I want a margarita!) - Lucy

  4. I went to Florida, looking for sailboats and was surprised to find 1.3 million alligators live in the state, which taught me to look around carefully when walking around the marina at night.

    I think you may win the award for the most creative Q post :-)

  5. You guys totally crack me up! Love these!!

    I went to a marina, looking for decent wifi to reply to comments promptly, and was surprised to find sluggish lines and dropped connections, which taught me that my friends are pretty understanding of late responses.

    And someday, somewhere, we'll all meet for margaritas!

  6. I went back to your comments, looking for your funny reply, and was surprised you had trouble with the internet, which taught me you need a Wirie. :-)

    I love these prompts and sure hope we can all meet up and have margaritas together! :-)

    (PS: Our Wirie company is located near Newburyport :-))

    1. Too funny! Actually, we have a Ubiquiti Bullet (sorry, but it was years ago and we didn't know you then!) The problem is that the marina's transmitter isn't transmitting. In the early mornings I can use the signal from the bar across the street, but as soon as they are open, their wifi is jammed by their own patrons. There's always my cellphone hotspot. *sigh*

  7. I went to my son's wedding, looking for tears of farewell, and was surprised to find I'd gained a daughter, which taught me that moving on can be delightful.
    Susan Says

    1. Aww, how sweet! And I certainly see how that sentence could be expanded into an entire blog post or essay as you write about mixed emotions leading up to the wedding, and maybe seeing some family members you hadn't seen in years, and the conversation with your new daughter that made you realize everything was going to be more than okay, and your thoughts on your new role... Looking forward to reading more!

  8. Freaking awesome post. I love your examples - funny. Next time you should combine your search for margarita's and god. I bet that will work. ha!