Writing Prompts

Let’s face it. Writing is hard. Sometimes the act of writing is easy. We have an idea, a first sentence, a word, and we run with it.

Other times writing feels impossible. Maybe it’s our mood. We had a bad day, and at the end of it, we’re not able to create. If you’re a morning writer, maybe you slept through your alarm and don’t have any time for writing in the rest of your day.

This past week, I struggled with writing, but yesterday I sat down and was able to write. I wrote a poem, and it turned out okay. I have switched to a morning writing schedule the past month, but daylight savings messed it up last week. My son started waking up an hour earlier than usual. So today, I woke up at 4:45 so I’d have at least an hour of writing time once I woke up. I ended up only getting about 45 minutes, but I wrote three poems. One of them is actually kind of decent, and I think it has potential. But I’m going to let all of the poems I wrote breathe for awhile before I take another look at them.

I typically write poetry in free verse. I want to experiment with more forms though because I want to see what happens when I’m forced into a structure, just like I’m toying with the idea of plotting my next fiction story rather than being completely winging it.

Since today is Monday and we’re all starting our week, I thought it might be helpful to share a few prompts I’ve recently come across that might be helpful in sparking a new story or poem. I’ll cite the sources I pulled these from so that if you find it helpful, you can look into it for future reference. I love writing books or websites, so please feel free to share any you frequently use!

1. Pulled from The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. This book is full of so many amazing prompts and writing ideas. I’ve been using it for months and haven’t even worked myself out of the first chapter. This particular prompt has been really helpful for me:

Make a list of the most memorable events in your life. Some of them will be large- a death, a breakup, some goal you finally accomplished. But list the small things, too, things you’ve always remembered as particularly special and important in some way. When you’re finished, you should have a list of subjects for poems that could take you years to write. For now, start a poem about one of the events you’ve listed; every so often, you can go back to the list and pick another one.

Part of the reason I’m sharing this one is because this one has created many new poems for me this year. I typically write speculative poetry, but a decade ago before I got into speculative poetry, I used to write poetry about things that happened to me or situations that had an impact on me. I missed being able to do that, so I tried this exercise. My list of ‘memorable events’ is three pages long, and I add to it all the time as I remember new things. Some of them are memories of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Others are of loss. But they all mean something to me, and I’m eager to keep working through this list.

2. A few years ago, I received The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan for Christmas. I love this. It’s a set of different tools to spark a story idea and get writing. I’ve used it a bunch of times just to get going on writing. Here’s an example of one of the first line prompts:

Michael sat down in the middle of the road and began to cry.

The thing to remember about first line prompts is that they are helpful in starting a story. I often use them to get a story going and then eventually go back and edit the first line because maybe it doesn’t fit the rest of the story anymore. First line prompts help me explore writing without a plot (which if you’ve read my blog so far, you know I love doing). Sometimes the scenes don’t go anywhere, and that’s okay. But sometimes they get me to the next project I want to start, and in that, they’re worth exploring. At the end of the day, even when you’re struggling to write, it’s important to keep going. If you have to take a break from a piece you’re working on to keep going, then do it. You’ll keep getting better.

3. Lastly, I pulled this one from Pinterest (which is my favorite place to spend time when I should be writing). This is from Saturday Story Prompts:

Mother went into the forest once, when she was younger, and Grandmother swears it was someone else who walked out in her skin.

I honestly forgot that I saved this one, and I’m intrigued by it. I might use it this week to do some more exploratory writing.

This week, I’m shifting gears a bit. I need a break from my book. As hard as that is to admit, I’d rather keep writing than completely stop because my book isn’t heading the way I want it to anymore. I have to pause, but it’s temporary. In the meantime, I can work on other forms of writing that I love: poetry and short fiction.

Whatever you’re working on this week, I hope the words find you.

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