Have you ever looked at a blank page or screen and found it hard to get started?
You’re not alone. I can certainly relate!
What to do?
Try a short writing prompt.
A good writing prompt will fire up your imagination and get your words flowing, whether you are writing a memoir, short story, essay, or novel. Prompts are also handy for anyone exploring ideas or trying to get to the heart of an idea.
There are thousands of writing prompts available online and in books and, while I’ve used complex and multi-layered prompts over the years, I always come back to short prompts—because they work. They get me going, push me in new directions, and inspire my imagination.
If you are interested in starting a regular writing practice, short prompts are perfect for getting you started—they are fun and easy.
These prompts can inspire dialogue, scenes, characters, and storylines regardless of genre.
Writing for as little as 10 minutes without stopping can produce excellent results.
Using short writing prompts regularly can lead to the birth of an idea, a turn of phrase, a new direction, a fascinating character, a personal realization—and over time, you’ll create a writing practice to carry you forward.
- If you want to develop a character, try doing a prompt from your character’s point of view. I guarantee there will be some surprises.
- If you aren’t sure where your plot is going, use a prompt to discover new twists and turns in your storyline.
- If you are just exploring your process? That’s great. Dive in and see where the prompt leads you.
Short writing prompts are great for procrastinators (sound familiar?). When time constraints propel you beyond critical thought and into the creative flow, it’s exhilarating and helps to keep the internal critic at bay.
Who doesn’t have 10 minutes?
Let’s get started!
I’ve provided you with five prompts below. Without thinking about the prompt, write it at the top of your page. Now, set a timer for 10 minutes and go with your first thought—keep writing until your timer rings. No stopping, no thinking, let it flow. The key is to keep your pen moving. I recommend writing by hand with a fast roller-ball pen—pencils, ball-points, and fountain pens are too slow. A keyboard is fine, but there’s something special about that hand/mind/heart connection, and there is less impulse to edit. Try it. You might like it!
Maybe you keep on writing after the timer rings; maybe you stop. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is you sat down and wrote. Keep it up. Be willing to begin again and again and watch your imagination blossom.
Writing Prompt #1 ~ Mine the memory
“I don’t remember” prompts are great for getting started, and sometimes what you don’t remember can be even more fertile than what you do remember.
“I don’t remember the last time I felt ….”
Writing Prompt #2 ~ Use your senses
We shape our stories and their characters with words on a page, but we give them life through our senses. We draw our readers in and anchor them to the story through sensory details. These details breathe life into our characters and settings and allow our readers to share in their existence. Ultimately, our writing is most potent when seen, heard, touched, tasted, and smelled.
“The scent was familiar, but ….”
Writing Prompt #3 ~ Use everyday objects
Sometimes, it’s the ordinary things in our daily life that hold the most meaning, stir the deepest memories, or inspire a long-forgotten story.
“The suitcase lay open on the bed….”
Writing Prompt #4 ~ Making comparisons
One of the first things I talk about in my workshops is our tendency to compare ourselves with others, often to our detriment. Comparison keeps us separate, and it keeps us less than or better than, and it doesn’t help us as writers.
If you can identify with rather than compare yourself to someone’s achievement, you will feel encouraged by their example rather than discouraged by their success.
“The truth is I am envious of ….”
Writing Prompt #5 ~ Dive Deep
Some prompts can be used to delve a little deeper into your thoughts and feelings or those of a character. If you choose to use these prompts for personal exploration, give yourself permission to dive deep and gather those pearls.
“At a young age, I learned not to ….”
Even seasoned writers can become disconnected from their work.
Life happens. We stop writing, or we get stuck. The important thing is to find a way to reconnect to your work, and sometimes, the smallest effort can reap the biggest reward!
These prompts work with both fiction and memoir to develop character, plot, setting, dialogue and help you get to the heart of what you want to say. The more prompts you do, the more often you will experience the creative flow, discover your authentic voice, and sustain your writing practice.
Have fun, and let me know how it goes in the comments box below.
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