This month on the blog, I’m looking at INSPIRATION and ways of getting started with your writing. If you missed my previous post about FREEWRITING, you can check it out here.
Today I want to talk to you about WRITING PROMPTS.
As I mentioned in my previous post, a simple way to get started when you’re warming up with a writing session is to pick a word and just start writing whatever comes into your head connected with that word. I like to keep lists of ten random words so that I can pick one whenever I need a prompt, but you can do it with anything – pick a random colour, use the first thing you see, a word from a book title, anything. Sometimes just having a one-word prompt can be enough to get you started.
Also bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be a word. For a really easy prompt, just use your senses: write down what you can see, hear, feel, smell – and maybe you can weave something out of those descriptions. What you’re looking for here is just a spark, a flicker of inspiration to get your writing brain engaged. It is supposed to be fun, so don’t worry too much about the quality at this stage!
Speaking of fun, some of the wackier ideas I have used as prompts have been the ones that have yielded the most interesting results! Setting yourself ridiculous challenges like writing sentences only using words beginning with one letter, or using consecutive letters of the alphabet to start each new word/sentence create a kind of game/puzzle element that brings back that feeling of ‘play’ that I think we can sometimes lose when we take our writing too seriously. I once came across an activity which involved writing out sentences and then chopping them up and rearranging the words, creating a kind of nonsense poetry that actually really inspired me to think much more deeply about word order and the importance of each individual word.
These kinds of games need only take ten or fifteen minutes, and you can squeeze them into the corners of your day, just to give you a creative boost. Think of it as a mini work-out for your writing brain!
Once you’ve got the hang of using writing prompts, it is a good idea to have a go at some more structured, longer writing exercises. There are so many books and resources – below, you can watch the video below to hear me talk about a book I’ve found really useful for this: A Writer’s Workbook by Caroline Sharp.
I find using a combination of random prompts and more structured exercises works really well for getting me into a creative rhythm. The most important thing, I think, is to have fun with it – sometimes when we’re working on a novel draft or a short story for a competition, we can forget the absolute joy that can be found in just playing around with words!
Things to Try
I thought I’d finish this post by giving you a few practical ideas to go off and try! Please do let me know if you give any of these a go, I’d love to hear how you got on! Here are ten prompts:
- Use any of these words as a prompt to start writing: silver; envelope; waste; palm; crunch; obsolete; terrarium; method; ring; frame
- Use ALL of the words above in a paragraph!
- Write a paragraph in which all of the adjectives, nouns and verbs begin with the letter ‘b’
- Write a paragraph starting with the phrase: “I remember when…”
- Write down three sentences on strips of paper. Then cut up the words and make three new sentences. Repeat!
- Write a paragraph starting with the phrase: “I believe in…”
- Write a paragraph without repeating a single word.
- Write a paragraph starting with the sentence “And they all lived happily ever after.”
- Write a story in which each sentence starts with consecutive letters of the alphabet.
- Write a story using as many colours as you can.
There are so many ways of using writing prompts to kickstart your creativity – collecting a stash of prompts is a great way to ensure you’re never stuck for words!
Next time, I’ll be looking at how you can use your reading to inspire your own writing – a topic very close to my heart!