A writer can feel “stuck” at many points in his or her writing. Sometimes you don’t know where to start. Sometimes you don’t know where to go next. Sometimes you’re bored with what you are writing.
Writers are often encouraged to just keep writing. If you can trust in yourself and your craft enough to follow that advice it makes sense. The more I write the more ideas I have and the more I want to write. Even if what you are writing feels like garbage, it doesn’t matter. We all know it is the editing process after the first draft that makes the story sing.
Writing prompts are tools which may help in “stuck” situations. If you have no idea what to write, the prompt gives you a starting point. If you are bored or having trouble with what you are working on, a few minutes away working on something entirely different, something that doesn’t need to go anywhere or make sense, may give you new perspective.
You can find writing prompts in many places on the Internet. Or you can have them delivered into your email in-box. Sarah Selecky, a writer and creative writing teacher, creates daily writing prompts. I discovered Sarah through Margaret Atwood’s website, on her Resources for Writers page, where she recommends Sarah Selecky’s online writing course Story is a State of Mind.
Selecky suggests writing daily for at least ten minutes. Using the prompt as a guide, you write, preferably long-hand, whatever comes to mind. You don’t worry about where it is going, if it makes senses, how or if it will end, or how well-crafted the phrases and sentences are. You just write. What you write may turn out to be the start of a story you wish to develop. It may give you ideas for something else. Or it may just be a collection of words that goes no further. It doesn’t matter.
Examples of Sarah Selecky’s prompts include:
- Write a scene about a leak. Any kind of leak.
- Start writing with this sentence, “It all started with . . .”
- Write a scene about a green pencil crayon, a glass of water, and a ladder.
- Write about what it feels like to have a fever without using the words chills, sweat, burn, or hot.
- Write a list titled “Things that are slimy”.
I get a prompt in my in-box every day, but I don’t write about the prompt every day. Some days I get busy with other things, maybe even writing. I still find the prompts useful. And fun. Sometimes what I’ve written becomes input into a story. Other times the words are just a way to let my imagination run free, with no particular purpose and no requirement for structure or tying up loose ends.