Magazines, websites and books on creative writing often contain writing prompts, implying they’re a staple food for the writing mind. However, most writers have probably never used one.
If you’re one of those writers, you might be wondering, “What’s so great about a writing prompt anyway?”
The simple answer is: They jumpstart you into writing by choosing your first words so you don’t have to.
And I think we all agree that first words are usually the hardest, except for the 50,000 or so that come after that. So why not get a little help?
Prompts can be used at any point in your writing journey. Here are 5 reasons why writing prompts are worth using.
- If you haven’t written for a while and need to get back into the swing of things, writing prompts are the perfect things to jolt you back into good writing habits. They force you to get out your writing paraphernalia and get going.
- If things have stalled in your current writing project, then use a writing prompt like a ‘sorbet’ to cleanse your literary palate and gain some distance from what you’ve been working on.
- Writing prompts are a great way to start your writing session. They allow you time to work through your first words of the day so by the time you move on to your major project your words are flowing smoothly.
- If you want to experiment with a different writing style or genre, writing prompts can plunge you into a change and provide you with the opportunity to experiment with creative abandon.
- Writing prompts also do wonders for your Creativity. But I’ll let my Creativity tell you more about that another time.
The Purpose of Writing Prompts
Let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning, writing prompts are there to prompt, not to dictate your plots, characters or style.
The term ‘prompt’ means to assist or encourage. It’s a gentle force that stimulates and inspires ideas, not controls or dictatorially restricts your output.
If, in the process of writing, your story turns in a direction that results in you editing or even completely deleting the prompt line, that’s fantastic!
The purpose of the prompt is to get the story rolling. Once it’s on the move, the prompt is no longer necessary. It’s done its job.
Perhaps it would be even better to call them ‘writing matches.’ They lie dormant until you strike one up, then you can set all sorts of possibilities alight depending on where your story leads you. Once your page is burning well, the match has accomplished its purpose and the fire takes on a life of its own.
Now I’m sounding like a pyromaniac. But you get the idea. View prompts as a means to an end, not a cookie cutter solution.
So, find yourself some writing prompts and give them a go. You might be surprised by how effective they are.
If you don’t have easy access to writing prompts, try Punch for Prompt over at Charlotte Rains Dixon’s site.
Have you had fun with writing prompts? Tell us more in the comments.