- Books, Literature, and Writing
Writing Prompts to Clear Up Writer's Block
Ridding Yourself of Creative Blocks
Whether you are a seasoned professional, or just need to tap your inner author for a one-time project, chances are that you're going to suffer a creative setback at some point. The brain is a mysterious creature, and barely understood by even the most smarty-pants scientists.
In many ways, though, it is quite simple, much like the many muscles of the body. You can't expect to jump up from years of couch-loafing and run a marathon, just as you can't expect your brain to switch from its everyday practical, analytical processes to free-flowing production of unique ideas in an instant.
There is hope for you and your brain, though. One of the best ways to cure writer's block is to do some creative exercises. Creative writing classes often use writing prompts to get students past the initial stage of crippling indecision. The questions, "but what do I write about?" or "where do I begin?" are done away with. Prompts don't need to be even remotely related to the subject that you're trying to write about; the idea is to simply stimulate your own creativity.
Use these prompts to warm up your mental muscles and prepare to pump some authorial iron.
- It's dark; I can't even see my own hands in front of my face. What is this place? I try to call out, but can't seem to find my voice. What's that? Somewhere behind me, a noise. A long, low groan. Instinctively, I turn around and thrust my arms out before me. My efforts are almost instantly gratified as my fingers close around..
- I stood, shaking violently and trying to catch my breath. Looking up, I squinted through the sweat that stung my eyes and saw that she was still beside me. Across her forehead was a jagged dash of maroon; I didn't know if the blood was hers, mine, or someone else's. I could smell smoke in the distance and my throat felt parched beyond salvation. In all my life, I could never have imagined the way this day would turn out. It began in as benign a manner as any other I've had. I was heading to work around 7:30 am as I always do....
- "Your turn," she said, handing the device to me. I was nervous, but didn't let on. All my training had been in preparation for this moment, and I wasn't about to blow it. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath. I was ready; I could handle this...
- There is a legend about this place. It is said that many years ago, before the first settlers came to this land, there were animal spirits that roamed freely. Most of them were wise and kind, but others were spiteful and mean. There are several tales about these creature-spirits, but the one everyone wants to hear most is the story of the...
- "I come from a star-system not unlike this one," she said matter-of-factly. I think she must have sensed my discomfort, because she changed her appearance just then. I don't know how she did it, but she now resembled something more like a human being. "Look, this is my world," she whispered as she directed my attention to a small viewing screen. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. The buildings were not at all like the structures of Earth, and the vegetation was as bizarre as anything I could have imagined...
I could go on forever with these. When you are feeling particularly inspired, create your own writing prompts. As you may have guessed, I have a particular love for Science Fiction, so you won't catch me giving out prompts for romance stories or historical dramas. This doesn't mean you can't, though! Get to work and create a set of prompts to use later when you just aren't feeling the writerly vibe.
A few more inspirational ideas:
- Write your own bio. Write about yourself in the third person, and describe your talents and interests. Give a condensed version of your life story along with why you chose your current career/life path/relationship status/whatever. Try to keep it under 2 paragraphs and don't use the same word twice (words like "and," "the," and proper nouns don't count). Set it aside and come back to read it later. Did you sell yourself well? Is your description of yourself bland and unoriginal, or do you sound like someone fun to hang out with? If you find yourself nodding off halfway through, try the next exercise.
- Pimp your bio. Okay, now throw all the facts out the window and rewrite your bio using as much false and misleading information as you can think of. Our brains become so set in the groove of presenting facts and seeking logic, that we often forget how to come up with new ideas on the fly and have to force ourselves out of our limited line of thinking. Give it a try, though. It can be sort of fun deciding whether you have mutant powers or were actually raised by monkeys. Maybe your grandmother was a mafia princess, and you can only ingest dairy from grass-fed Scandinavian goats. Once you get the sillly ideas flowing, it becomes easier and easier to come up with more of them.
- Try your hand at micro fiction or flash fiction. This uber-condensed writing style has seen a surge in popularity since the dawn of the digital age. See if you can tell a full story - beginning, middle, and end - in 1,000 words or less. Now try 500. If you really want to challenge yourself, tell your tale in no more than 55 words. The heightened awareness of the economy of words can do wonders for your overall technique.
- Write a simple song or a poem. Even if the last thing you'll ever need to write is a poem, writing in rhyme schemes can really enrich your idea bank. Finding words to fit the flow of a poem or song is a great exercise in vocabulary and pushes you to come up with different ways of saying the same thing.
Come on, get going! You may be surprised by how quickly your block dissolves once you let go and just write. Taking the pressure off yourself by writing about a nonsense subject might be just what you need to get past the mental barriers and into that vast and mysterious territory of your mind where new ideas dwell.