Sometimes I stare at the screen as the minutes tick by, willing the words to come. There are columns to write and deadlines to meet and … when the words aren’t flowing freely, it’s hard.
Much like athletes need to stretch before a race, writers sometimes need a little warming up before getting on with their writing. It’s normal, I assure you (and it’s also why it’s so often advised that writers should write every day).
In my Professional Blogging class at Husson University, I teach the students one of my best tricks for getting the words to flow: just write. Write everything that comes into your head in a stream-of-consciousness mess. This often is enough to break out of a rut and find what you really want to say (of course, go back and delete the bits that were just the stream-of-consciousness exercise).
But you can also start your day with a writing exercise. Using a writing prompt and doing a short bit of writing — just for you — can be a good warm-up for your writing day.
These 10 writing prompts are ones I’ve used before with success. Take a deep breath, choose one and give yourself 5-10 minutes to explore the ideas that tumble into your mind. This will clear out the recesses of your mind and let you get on with it. And we all know how important getting on with it is.
- The writing is on the wall – Without using this cliched phrase, write about a situation in which the writing was on the wall. What happened? How did you react? What was the resolution? (Note: This is actually one of my favorite writing prompts because it opens up to so many delicious ideas and twists in writing.)
- The best thing I ate was … – You may be familiar with the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” It’s a quirky show where food notables describe amazing dishes and meals they’ve had while the visuals actually show the food too. It’s a cool concept and lends itself beautifully to a personal essay on food. Think about a most favorite dish — perhaps something you ate as a child or something you had recently at an amazing restaurant. Whatever it is, describe it in vivid detail — the texture, aroma, mouthfeel, flavor, look … The more detail, the better.
- Dear self – Who hasn’t done something and then made a mental note to never do again? Life lessons like this are golden — and perfect for sharing with your younger self. Think of one or several, and write a letter to yourself at age 10 or 15 or 20 — or whatever age you want — sharing the important lesson or lessons.
- My favorite place – Think of your favorite place in the world — it could be a home, a city, a bridge or whatever. Then describe it as if you are talking to someone who has never been there. Be descriptive — include the sights, sounds, feel, flow and tenor of the place.
- Break-up lessons – Most people have suffered through a break-up or 10. Dig into those emotions and the lessons they impart by writing a list of things you’ve learned from a break-up (or all the break-ups!).
- Out the window – This is writing prompt I love. Look out the nearest window. Then, describe in as vivid detail what you see. You can also add in smells and sounds, if appropriate. Then go back and add even more details.
- The speech – Pretend you’ve just run into a childhood nemesis and you’re ready to lay bare all your grievances for their awful behavior as a kid. Write the imaginary speech you’d give (even if it’s not in your nature to ever do such a thing!). Try it — it’s therapeutic.
- What I’ve done today – Write a list of everything you’ve done since waking up. This writing prompt doesn’t need details — instead, focus on being extensive and list every last thing you’ve done.
- Finish the sentence – This one is quick and easy, but does require a little thinking. Finish this sentence: “The sweeping darkness of dusk was …”
- If I won the lottery – Allow yourself to dream for a moment. What would you do with the money if you won the lottery? Write about it.