As a writer, your worst enemy is a blank page when you have no idea what to write about.
The fastest and most effective way to improve your writing skills and become a better writer is by simply writing more. Quality may ultimately be more important than quantity, but all great artists understand that it is the quantity of practice that allows you to produce the highest quality work.
I have always loved writing, so I know how awful it can be to feel uninspired and stuck in front of a perfectly empty computer screen or a blank piece of paper. I sometimes picture myself desperately squeezing my brain to get those creative juices flowing. Every time, I’m left with two words: “what now?”
If you have been a victim to writer’s block then you know exactly how this feels. For many writers, getting started is the most difficult part of writing. Sitting alone in front of the computer trying to come up with a unique story or eloquent prose is no easy task. I’ve heard of some chronic cases of writer’s block where writers could not produce any works for years, and I know others who simply gave up writing.
Overcome Writer’s Block with Writing Prompts
There are many different methods writers have used over the years to overcome writer’s block—systematic questioning, free writing, list making, journaling, group discussion, and forcing yourself to write something even if it makes no sense. All of these methods have worked for some, but results vary from writer to writer.
In my experience, there are times when I just need a little push in the right direction. Sometimes I’m just looking for a trigger to get my creative juices flowing again. And that’s why I love writing prompts. They are so easy to use and widely available.
Writing prompts could be single words, short phrases, entire paragraphs, or even pictures. Whatever the source, you don’t have to follow them to the letter, and they certainly don’t need to be part of your final piece. They are meant only as inspiration to help get you started.
Some writers don’t like responding to writing prompts. They feel that it’s unoriginal, uninspiring, or even off-topic for their target genre. But the general idea is for you to just start writing without thinking about the end-game. And you never know—even if you’ve only written historical fiction, a writing prompt might be the key to unlocking that sci-fi novel that’s hidden in a dusty corner of your brain.
By giving you writing topics or ideas ahead of time, writing prompts allow you to focus 100% of your energy and creativity into simply writing. If you’ve been stuck with bad writing habits like procrastination or writer’s block, writing prompts just might be the cure you’re looking for.
A writing prompt is a simple writing exercise that can have a profound impact on your creative writing output.
Here are my top reasons for using writing prompts.
1. Writing Prompts Increase Creative Potential
As a writer, it’s easy to feel like you’re writing in circles, returning to the same thoughts and concepts over and over again.
I find that this involuntary restraint on my creative muscle is because I have anxieties about my writing. I feel self-conscious, and that’s why I’m unable to follow my instincts. Anxiety and worry about criticism and “doing it right” can prevent me from thinking outside the box and entertaining new ideas.
When I’m stuck in that rut of negative emotions and worries, I’ll turn to writing prompts. I write for 10-15 minutes without overthinking it and without judging myself. I find that this helps shatter my inhibitions and doubts. It makes me less timid and more adventurous with my writing. I get that creative high and I use it when I return to my original piece.
Writing prompts force your mind to focus on a single idea or concept. By eliminating the sometimes-overwhelming need to come up with an idea (from an infinite number of options), your brain can quickly and easily unleash its full creative powers.
2. Writing Prompts Exercise Your Imagination
One of the benefits of writing prompts is that they stretch your imagination. It’s amazing how much material you can come up with when you fully explore a writing prompt.
If you’re feeling stuck with something you’re working on, try walking away and working on something else entirely, even branching out into a different genre. This change of focus can exercise your imagination much in the way that switching up your actual exercise routine can help you get in better shape.
Our writing prompts have done some of the heavy lifting for you by creating well-imagined scenarios as jumping off points. But many writing prompts are much, much simpler—even single words.
When I’m using ultrasimple prompts, I start by playing mind-reader, trying to discern what the author of the prompt was thinking about when he wrote it.
If I find a writing prompt that simply says “yogurt,” I might guess that the author was on a diet, or that he was craving yogurt cheese, or that he just spilled some yogurt because it was balanced too precariously on the fridge shelf. Maybe he was thinking about his kid’s lunch, and how unhealthy the food at the school cafeteria is.
Then I’ll think about what I can do with those guesses. I might be inspired to write about how to make sure your kid is eating healthy, or to write an exposé of school lunch. I might decide to write about a kid who’s jinxed and always spilling things, or maybe I will craft a recipe with yogurt as the main ingredient.
I might even take it one step further: maybe yogurt makes me think of my mother, since she eats yogurt for lunch almost every day. Following that train of thought, I could decide to write a fictionalized account of my mother’s life.
The beauty of writing prompts like this is that just one word can spawn an infinite number of ideas in a matter of seconds.
Once you have an idea that you feel compelled to write about, all you have to do is sit down and let your imagination lead you.
3. Writing Prompts Increase Your Rate of Practice
You can’t become good at something without practicing it. Successful writers are not born successful—they must practice and do a lot of hard work. They must write some downright awful sentences (or paragraphs, or even whole books) before they can reach their full potential.
You’ve probably heard that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field. No one really knows if that number is accurate or not, but we can all agree that practice is the only way to improve your skills.
It follows then that the more time you spend actually writing, rather than daydreaming about what to write about, the better you will become. Writing prompts can help you overcome the biggest challenge of writing: getting started.
With writing prompts, it’s easy to make writing a habit. Set aside some time every day to write. If you’re feeling uninspired, use a writing prompt to get you going. The writing you do with these prompts doesn’t have to be a means to an end; it doesn’t have to relate or contribute to whatever your big writing project is. It serves only one purpose: to help you practice your art.
The more you write, the easier it will become, and the better you will be able to write what you want to and need to on demand.
4. Writing Prompts Save You Time
Inspiration may be all around us, but if you’re suffering from writer’s block, it can be pretty hard to see. Sure, you can search the web for beautiful photos, you can look through your old journals, you can sit under a tree and commune with nature. The problem with all of those things is that they can take up a lot of precious time—and if writing is your hobby or side gig, you may not have that much time to spare.
If you need instant inspiration, nothing works faster than a good writing prompt.
By skipping the sometimes-laborious task of finding inspiration for yourself, you can spend more time practicing and improving your writing skills.
Our list of writing prompts is a great place to start, but if you don’t find something there that sparks your imagination, there are tons of websites out there dedicated to writing prompts.
I suggest you try one of the following keywords to help you find some good ones: “writing prompts,” “writing prompts generator,” “writing prompts for adults,” “writing prompts ideas,” or “ideas for writing.”
You can even search for prompts based on your favorite genre with keywords like “writing prompts for romance” or “writing prompts for paranormal fantasy.”
5. Writing Prompts Help You Learn About Yourself
There are writing prompts that challenge you to respond to a variety of issues and questions. Some are political, some social, and others spiritual. Some you might have thought deeply about, and some you may never have thought of.
Whether we admit it or not, we still live in a society that likes to categorize things and people. We subconsciously create stereotypes of everyone and everything around us, and are brought up to think only within the bounds of what we know (or what we think we know). Stereotypes don’t stop with high school jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, and troublemakers.
But stereotypes can cloud our views of reality. These old habits impair our critical thinking and creativity, and we end up uninspired and confined by our limited imaginations.
Writing prompts force you to question some of these old opinions, standards, and beliefs. A prompt can help you to ask why things are the way they are. What if they are not the way they seem? What surprises might be lurking beneath the surface of my assumptions?
Personally, this journey of using writing prompts has helped me to answer a lot of questions and helped me see the world, and my relationship to it, in entirely different ways. It’s allowed me to discover what really matters to me.
Writing can be incredibly therapeutic, especially when you allow yourself to simply be creative and use your imagination with no regard for what others will think of you, your writing, or your ideas.
Not Sure if Writing Prompts Will Work for You?
If you’re still not sure using a writing prompt would be good for you, that’s great! If you feel you are against using writing prompts, then you have reason enough to explore it. As they say, the opposite of love is not hate—it’s apathy. Strong feelings mean strong opinions and emotions, and writing with strong emotions can be incredibly productive and healing.
If your immediate reaction to a prompt is, “that’s just senseless” or “who would ever write about that?” that’s wonderful. Now you have something to write about. Write about everything that’s wrong with it and why it’s absurd.
If you read a writing prompt about “invaders from Pluto using a love potion to defeat Earth’s army,” would you find it dumb? If you answer yes, then answer the question “why?” Figure out what would make it more sensible and start writing about that. If you answer no, then welcome to the bandwagon. You just found your first writing prompt.
Do You Use Writing Prompts?
Have you used writing prompts before?
If so, post your comments below and let us know why you decided to use writing prompts and what your favorite ones are.