Monday, July 16, 2012

A Prompt a Day Keeps the Block Away

I know some of you are pounding away at the keys, or scribbling your pencils to nubs, as the summer months roll along.  Others may be struggling, though.  Maybe you have no time to really get down to the nitty gritty, or maybe you have time, but  can't get in the right mindset.  Or maybe a billion other things that are keeping you from being as productive as you want.

One of the things I like to get myself started are prompts.  We all know about prompts, but what's so great about them is that they jump start your brain, get the juices flowing, get you in the mood to write.  You can find some blogs that do prompts on my Blogs W/ Prompts tab (I know, so clever and original, right?).  However, if you aren't in a position to log on and look at my blog, you can find prompts in various places:

1. Photo Prompts.  Photos make great prompts.  Look through a magazine, a photo album, a children's book, anything that might hold an image you could use for inspiration.  None of those things around?  How about a calendar?  Graffiti?  Bulletin board or other ad?  There is a wealth of images all around us.  Heck, we're constantly inundated by various images and sales props.  Use those to your advantage and show them who's boss. 

2. First line prompts.  An interesting kind of prompt is to take a sentence from a book, an article, your journal, or something else written.  Take just that first line, or maybe a different line from somewhere in the piece, and use it to start your own piece.  Where might you take it?

3. Shoplift.  No, I don't mean to steal something physical.  What I want you to steal is a chunk of conversation from a table near you.  An experience you witness.  A situation you read about in the newspaper or see in a news story.  You can even shoplift a friend's experience, though I would highly recommend asking for their permission if you want to do anything with the story, like get it published or display it somewhere others might see it. 

4. Observe.  Take a walk.  Use the views as your inspiration or study those around you.  Do the same at a restaurant.  Imagine what these people might do in a certain situation, or what could happen to them in this environment.  That guy over there, chatting up the blond...could he have a murder kit in the trunk of his car, despite those charming dimples?  That lady, sitting by herself, arms wrapped around her she an abuse victim or a secret superhero.

5. Pull out an old piece of yours.  Do you have a story starter graveyard?  Because I do.  I write down ideas, start stories, jot down notes, and then never do anything with them.  Given, that happens less often now, but I still have story ideas I jotted down in high school.  It's all filed.  Pulling one of those out gives me something to lead off of.  Try looking at your old stuff.

Prompts don't have to start your day, either.  If you're working on a different project, but hit a block or get frustrated, try switching to a prompt and having a little free-writing time.  You can time it or just let yourself go, but see if freeing up that portion of your brain to work through the issues in your other piece helps you along.

Do you use prompts?  Have any other blogs that should be added to the prompt tab?  Pass them along, whether its yours or someone else's!  What's your favorite kind of prompt?  What did I miss?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Shannon, that's a really good list!

  2. A story starter graveyard! I love that phrase. I have mausoleums full of story starters. Thanks for the prompts. I may well click on my 'ideas' file and pull something out.

  3. I keep what I call an Ideas file and look at it occasionally, usually for blog posts, sometimes short stories, or ideas about one of the novels. I've used many of the ideas in that folder/file for blogposts.

    Very good points, Shannon. Observation is one of my best tactics.

  4. i do use prompts it helps to get the words flowing plus it helps me to practice writing

  5. Great list - I could definitely do with a prompt or two to keep me ticking over on occasion.

  6. I'm never found myself stuck, so I've never used prompts. I suppose I use where I left off as my own prompt. Anything else sort of feels like I'm wasting time.

  7. I'm fortunate in that my imagination runs wild all the time. So, unless I'm just having fun with it I don't normally use them for inspiration. But they can help me kick-start my writing day / week.

    On Mondays, I feature a writing prompt on my blog. Hope you don't mind if I include a link:

  8. Alex, thanks!

    Rosalind, ah, a mausoleum! Have fun!

    D.G., observation is great. Even if I'm not using it as a writing exercise, it's helpful for characterization later on down the line, etc.

    Becca, very true. The more you write, the better you get.

    Jamie, thanks! Prompts can be a fun change of pace.

    Andrew, I don't really get blocked, but I have days where I don't feel like I have time to sit down to work on a bigger project, but I'm itching to write. Those days are great days for prompts.

    Randy, I'll put your blog on the prompt page, Randy!

  9. I love the idea of shoplifting conversations! I make up stories about people I see and hear all the time. I never write them down, but they float around in my head! :)

  10. Great list, and great ideas! I'm a little stuck with a WIP right now - maybe I should write to a prompt to get the "juices flowing" as you say!

  11. I'm not a very good 'off the cuff' or prompt writer. But if I were, I could see the juices flowing with those prompts! :)

  12. I never thought of myself as a prompts kind of writer, but I've done it a few times since starting blogging and really enjoyed it! It's good to get connections going in the brain, and can really see how it would be good if you're in a bit of a slump.

  13. Hope you'll consider my blog, Write 4 Ten. I provide a daily prompt (M-F). I ask that you write for ten minutes (often we end up writing much longer) because anyone can squeeze out ten minutes. Then post your writing in the comments or a link to your blog. Thanks!

    Great post, btw. Tweeting it out.

  14. Jemi, I do the same thing!

    Daisy, if you do, I hope it helps.

    DL, thanks! I rarely do it, but I do enjoy a prompt.

    Nick, I'd forgotten how fun prompts were until I started blogging and doing the occasional challenge or blog hop with prompts. I should probably do it more.

    Donna, of course! Added. And thank you for the Tweet.

  15. It looks like the page isn't working now, might want to look into it. ;-)

    Thanks for the listing!

  16. Donna, in case you didn't see my shout-out of thanks on the post announcing it was fixed, thanks for letting me know!