Writing is an art and, like any art, it takes practice to improve. You can practice by free writing a little each day or you can add some structure and challenge to your practice by using a variety of writing prompts.
Writing prompts are suggestions that take you in a certain direction. They may be a topic, a first sentence or a more specific challenge. Writing prompts are particularly useful because they spark your imagination and may take you outside of your comfort zone.
So where can you find interesting writing prompts?
1. Google some inspiration
Google the phrase “writing prompts” and you are sure to turn up several sites devoted to providing inspiration. Many offer daily writing prompts, along with archived lists of past suggestions. There are prompts designed to be used by teachers with their students, prompts for personal journaling and prompts for creative writing. Challenge yourself by trying a variety of writing prompts.
2. Browse your bookshelf
When it comes to writing exercises, your bookshelves are full of great ideas. Write your own version of a favorite scene from memory, write some letters between fictional characters, or copy a sentence from a random page and use it as the first line of a short story. You can also practice different skills by writing book reviews or short summaries.
3. Record ideas from daily conversations
Keep a small notebook with you and get in the habit of jotting down phrases or sentences that catch your imagination. Over time, you can build a list of writing prompts to use in your exercises. For more challenge, choose two or three completely unrelated phrases and find a way to use them together in a short story.
4. Go people watching
You don’t have to hear conversations to capture ideas for writing prompts. Head out to a coffee shop, park, or other public place and spend some time people watching. Imagine stories for the people you see. Where are they from? Where are they going? Describe the people you observe, using rich details to capture appearance, mood and personality.
5. Join a writer’s group
Writing is a solitary practice, but it can also be shared with others. By joining a writer’s group, you can exchange writing prompts with others or work together to create a shared story. Take turns building a story by letting each person add their own sentence or paragraph. The results are often hilarious, and the exercise is a great way to stretch your imagination. Writing with others can push you to up your game, and it’s a lot of fun.
However you find your inspiration, plan some time to practice your writing for a few minutes each day. These simple exercises sharpen your skills and some may even lead to ideas for larger projects.