by Lisa Hartsgrove
Are you looking for some writing inspiration to help you get pen to paper? Or are you gearing up for NaNoWriMo (or your version of it)? Sometimes the hardest part is getting that first word down, which is why I love using prompts in my Just Write class to generate ideas for my students.
Prompts allow you to start from an unexpected place and see where your writing takes you. Often, after a few sentences (or paragraphs or pages) you stop and think … “oh … so that’s what I’ve been wanting to write about.” Prompts allow your subconscious thoughts, feelings, and stories to emerge.
Here I share some of my favorite prompts—the tried-and-true ones I turn to again and again. (Because you can—and should—revisit prompts to see which new thoughts, feelings, and stories are clamoring to be let out.)
My three all-time favorite prompts include:
- I Remember: This is a list of memories beginning with the phrase “I remember …” in whatever order they come to you. Memory is not linear, so it’s okay to jump from a memory 20 years ago to a memory this morning and back again. I love this prompt because anyone can do it and at any time! No matter your writing experience, we all have memories to pull from.
- I Am: I love this prompt because it offers you the opportunity to define yourself. When I give my students this prompt, I notice that they tend to start with the labels society gives them (job titles, family relations [mother/father/sister/etc.], etc.) but then once that’s out of the way, they tend to be freed to title themselves by their own standards (strong, confident, trustworthy, creative, etc.). This seems pretty simple, but the more you do it, the more powerful you feel. YOU are the only one in charge of your own life! Who are you? YOU tell US!
- One-Word: I also love one-word prompts, as they can be taken in so many different directions. I often joke that I could give a word like “ceiling” and this may trigger a thought of your grandmother for some reason. (Maybe grandma helped you paint your ceiling?) You never have to use the given word in your work, it’s what the word makes you think of that guides your writing journey. This is also another easy one that you can do pretty much anywhere, anytime. Look around you and begin jotting down a list of what you see and then go from there.
And of course, because it’s spooky season, I have to include some of my favorite Halloween prompts as well:
- Witch’s Brew: This is where you take on the voice of a witch concocting a potion. What items go into it? What is it meant to do? Does it work?
- Ghost Stories: Everyone has a favorite ghost story, whether it’s a real-life experience or something that has been passed down through generations. What’s your favorite ghost story? Can you retell it in your own words? OR have you yourself ever felt like a ghost?
- Haunted: Haunt is one of my favorite words. It can have both a negative and positive connotation, depending on how you use it. For instance, what are some of your favorite haunts? OR what’s haunting you? I love prompts that are this versatile because I’m always surprised by what my students come up with!
Want more? Register for the next session of Just Write starting Tuesday, November 3!