3. Getting Ideas Part 2: Writing Prompts

Author: Nola Published: about 3 years ago.
Tags: creativity, ideas, inspiration, writing prompts Category: Writing tips

Last January, I took part in a Month of Poetry challenge where we had to write a poem a day and post it online for critique. The first week was a breeze, but I was starting to run out of ideas by Week 2. How on earth was I going to come up with 31 new poems? Part of my problem was solved by downloading a copy of Robert Lee Brewer’s e-Book Write Poetry Now: 366 Prompts for Poets. Whenever I was stuck, I simply flicked through the list of ideas until I found one that sparked my imagination. I ended up with 33 poems, including some I never would have written without the prompts. You can find many cheap e-books of writing prompts on sites such as Amazon.com or simply google “writing prompts” for thousands of free sites.

There’s an assessment tool in psychology called the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in which people make up a story about an ambiguous picture. The rationale is that a person’s innermost thoughts and feelings will be revealed through their words. You can do your own version of the TAT by flicking through magazines or photo albums and writing a story, poem or non-fiction piece based on one of the pictures. I once came across a beautiful black and white photograph of two little girls walking down an alleyway in Mexico. The thing that intrigued me was the way in which the girls were casting only one shadow. I wrote a poem about it that was subsequently published. You can read it here. Why not try a similar exercise next time you’re at an art gallery?

It’s also easy to make your own writing prompts. Our writers' group got together one afternoon for a spurt of creativity. One member had brought along two black rag dolls that she thought might inspire us. I asked everyone else to choose an object nearby and we constructed a still life, much like an artist would do. As well as the dolls, we had a coffee mug decorated with a camel and palm trees, a book of movies from the 1930s and a watercolour painting of an old barn. Quite a motley collection! We gave ourselves 15 minutes to write. When we shared our work, the variety was amazing. One woman wrote two moving poems set in the Middle East, others wrote about racial prejudice and I wrote a funny piece in which Peter Jackson was remaking Gone With the Wind starring Hobbits. Oh well, there has to be one strange person in the group. None of us would have thought of writing those pieces earlier in the day, yet we all left with something we could work on.

Why not go to the Creative Writing Prompts site now, click on a number and start writing. You'll be amazed at the results.

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