You want to write. The blank page is staring back at you. Maybe you write a few words, then delete them. You type a few more words. Then delete. You do this until doing laundry or dishes sounds like more fun. Sound familiar?
Almost every writer, including me, has gone through the write-delete ritual. To break out of this cycle, try using the best creative writing prompts for unlocking your imagination. Prompts can be a great way to jump-start your writing.
Let’s take a closer look at what writing prompts are, how to pick the best prompt, preparing to use prompts, and a few of my favorites to get you started.
What Are Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are a writer’s best friend, especially to fight off a case of writer’s block. The purpose of a prompt is to make you think about something in a different way. Think of prompts as an alarm clock for the creative side of your mind. They help wake up the connections in your brain.
Prompt work may not always lead directly into the story you wanted to write, and that’s all right. The important part is that the practice helps you start putting words on the page and keep writer’s block at bay.
Getting ready to use prompts
Let’s talk about preparing to use writing prompts. If you aren’t in the right frame of mind, you can select the best creative writing prompts and still struggle to get your first few lines. When using prompts, remember:
- It doesn’t matter if you want to write poetry, memoir, short fiction, a novel, or something else. The purpose of a writing prompt is to get the words on the page.
- Permit yourself to write badly, to write fast, and to write whatever topic or image that comes to mind.
- Be open to the prompt. If the prompt suggests writing about chewing gum, write about chewing gum for five to ten minutes.
Picking the Best Prompt
Prompts could be a single word, a phrase, sentence, elements of a story, a photo, an activity, or a thousand other things. If you search online, you will find curated lists for poets, kids, teachers, horror novel writers, and much more. The secret here is that any of them will work for you even though you aren’t a poet, kid, teacher, or horror writer.
The key isn’t to find the best prompt for the format or genre; the key is to find what works best for you. Try a variety of different prompts. You may find writing while looking at a picture works best one day where writing from a random list of items works best the next day.
When you see a prompt that makes you think: “oh, this will be fun” or “oh, this will be hard” that’s the prompt you want. Both will get the gears turning in your mind and the words flowing onto the page.
A Few of My Favorites
The good news here is that writing prompts are all around you. I’ve recommended a few of best creative writing prompts for me, and hopefully you, below:
- Look around your desk, room, or house, or even outside your window. Pick an item or object and tell that item or object’s story. Where did you get it? Who had it before? Did you or a family member make it? Don’t know? Make up the answers.
- Play the Why Game—Ever been around a little kid that seems only to know the word “why?” Do that and make up answers as to why. You can start with something like: I’m writing a sentence. (Why?) Because I want to tell you about the turtles. (Why?) Because turtles are cool. (Why?) Keep going until you don’t need the “why” anymore.
- The Amazing Story Generator (ISBN-13: 978-1452111001)—I’ve used this book for years. It is a spiral bound “choose your adventure” style book with split pages that can be mixed and matched. You could start with something like: “While on a second honeymoon, an identical twin, is reunited with a long-lost twin.” Then, flip one section, like the character, to get: “While on a second honeymoon, a pathological liar is reunited with a long-lost twin.”
- Rory’s Story Cubes (dice or app)—The story cubes come in sets of nine dice with simple pictures on each side. Roll two, three, or all nine and use the images to start writing. How you interpret the image is up to you.
- A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life (ISBN-13: 978-1577319368)—This is my go-to book when I need a writing prompt for writer’s block. Confession—I haven’t read the chapter material even though I use the prompts whenever I feel particularly stuck.
Using prompts can be a great way to conquer the blank page. Prompts can open up a pathway for you to start thinking about one thing and leapfrog into any number of other stories. Focus on what works for you, on what helps your writing get started and don’t worry about whether a prescribed list targets you as a writer or the writing you want to do. Trust your creativity and the prompt to set the words inside you free.
Ready to dive in? Check out the Write the First Word Facebook Page for the 30-Day Prompt Challenge.