Why do I ask? Well, during the past few years, I've published some stories (and written a few more), but mostly I've worked on novels. And once I was well into a novel, a "prompt" for whatever I was going to do next didn't seem necessary. If I didn't feel inspired simply to go forward, I'd go back into earlier chapters and try to pull out something interesting or unresolved. That often worked, especially as I've learned to see the novel form as less rigid, more open. In novels, the writer can wander--and, I am reminded, she can do the same in short stories, too. As long as the story itself is "about" wandering in some way. More about that at another time.
But another reason I had for not using writing prompts is that it had started to feel like cheating to me. Or, to put it another way, I felt like a student ... and shouldn't I have "graduated" by now? I mean, does Jonathan Franzen use writing prompts? Does Alice Munro? Don't "real" writers have enough material in their own heads, all queued up, because they're fully aware of their own concerns and purposes as artists?
Well, I suspect these guys don't use "prompts" as such--meaning those you'd find in a "How to Write Fiction" book, or receive in a class. But I've just rediscovered them. And in the past month or so, two of those prompts have already helped me
- prepare the ground for a new novel
- complete one short story
- start a new story
Here are the prompts I've been using, from the Poets and Writers site.