I used to have this very complex metod of coming up with writing prompts. I have abandoned it in favor of my Roll the Dice method. Sometimes I just go to one of my favorite fantasy art places, like Elfwood, or Deviant Art, and randomly select a picture as a writing prompt.
About a year ago, I wrote one short story every week. It was a quota, and I used writing prompts religiously. Many of those stories are gathering dust in my virtual trunk right now, though some of them have squeeked through to be worth something. None have been published yet, although one is out for submission right now.
Anyway… when I was in the grip of this mad quota, I wasn’t writing to be published. Like a baseball pitcher throwing fast balls over and over again, I was practicing. I didn’t think my stories could go anywhere, just like those pitcher’s pitches would never strike out a batter.
Around that time, I met a guy on a writer’s forum who told me that practicing writing was silly. Every bit of writing you do, he said, should be done with the expectation of publication. Otherwise, it was worthless. Did I agree with that then? Do I agree with it now?
I think I’ve reached a point in my writing life where I am relatively confident in my ability to write well. Not write fantastically, not write perfectly, but write well. I get paid to write every day. I’ve had some fiction published. I don’t think I really need to do practice exercises that could never get published because of their very nature.
However, they can still be enjoyable. They can still improve writing skill. When someone posts a picture writing prompt (They’re my favorite type!) at the Accentuate Writer forum, I usually write something for it. I don’t consider it a worthless exercise. I consider it fun.