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3 Writing Prompt Ideas That Keep On Giving

Writer’s block is difficult to push through, and with surface-level and often dystopian writing prompts that a quick internet search gives you, it’s hard to feel the spark of true creativity. A prompt asking something like “what if robots took over the world” isn’t going to create a variety of poignant, original ideas. The solution to this problem is simple: incorporate recurrent writing prompts. Below, you’ll find three.

1. Brainstorm on the Word Level: Utilizing a Thesaurus

The first of these writing prompts is specifically helpful for writing poetry, but it can also be used to spice up dialogue or create unique imagery. I found this writing prompt in Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, specifically Ellaraine Lockie’s chapter “Thesaurus Is Not a Four-Letter Word.” Lockie first tasks you with identifying your topic. It might be a specific emotion (anger, fear, passion, etc.), a specific experience (i.e. getting dropped off at college, seeing Kelly Clarkson for the first time, holding your friend after a breakup), or any issue you’ve been meaning to or should address (i.e. your friend you lost in middle school, a dream you let go of, the light bulb flickering in your kitchen). Then, Lockie instructs us to choose one word that best describes the topic.

After you discover that one word (it can be multiple if you can’t choose just one), write the word (words) on the right side of a paper, making sure to leave the left side open for later. Then, one word at a time, look the words up in the thesaurus. Notice the synonyms that stick out to you, and list them below the word. Repeat the process—find synonyms for those synonyms! Make sure to circle any words that especially grab your attention. Once you have a good set of words, start writing lines with those words on the right side of the page.

If you are writing a poem, use those synonym lines as lines in the poem. Perhaps you might rephrase these lines, continuing to use the thesaurus with words that don’t quite fit. Poems require special attention to single words more than other genres do, which is why this writing prompt especially benefits poets. If you write prose, don’t let this knowledge stifle you. A passage in a novel that sounds as crisp and exact as poetry will grab their attention.

By using the thesaurus to put emotion into words, study an experience at a word level, and specify an issue with synonyms, you can create a wide variety of content. This writing prompt can be used recurrently. Come back to it to help generate quality sentence–level ideas.

2. Observe Yourself and Your Environment

This writing prompt is about observing yourself and your environment to get ideas— simply the thoughts you have. I suggest freewriting without caring about what you say, focusing more on a stream of consciousness than anything else. After some free writing, look over the text to see if anything stands out to you—-anything that sparks an image in your mind, uses the five senses, displays a character trait, etc. There may be a phrase in there that sparks other ideas. With those other sparked ideas, keep writing.

Besides observing yourself, external sources will help ideas to flow. The second part of this writing prompt involves picking up a piece of dialogue from the TV in the background, something funny you hear on the bus, a quirky idea on a social media post, etc. Perhaps you read this Spider-Man quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” This dialogue prompt can take your writing in many different directions. What power does your main character have? Is it magical, superhuman, supernatural? What responsibilities does this power entail? The list goes on.

Find ideas from observing yourself and observing your environment, then use them as a springboard. 

3. The Power of Song: How Music Can Lead to Writing Inspiration

I discovered this writing prompt in an article by Time Magazine, “Does Listening Stimulate Creative Thinking, or Stifle it?” The article highlights psychologist Mark Beeman’s book The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. Beeman posits that if you feel stuck, listening to music can inspire ideas. Likewise, music can help you get out of writer’s block and can generate entirely new writing, providing the ideas you’ve been yearning for.

Since music is scientifically proven to clarify and instill ideas, use it to your advantage with this writing prompt. Want to write a poem about sadness? Listen to sad music, then write down the songs, the lyrics, and even the words that stand out to you. Want to write about a character who just went through heartbreak and wants revenge? Listen to “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, then type away about what weapon your character would use. Want to write a battle scene that captures the drive and grit of your characters? Listen to any pump-up or workout playlists that your streaming service pulls up.

Write all of your thoughts down. 

Use these Writing Prompts and Submit to Inscape Journal

With their open-natured, recyclable uses, these writing prompts can spark unique ideas, whether you are a non-fiction, fiction, or poetry writer. Write as much as you can, and, for now, leave the editor in your mind out of it. Little nuggets of genius can come from random, unhurried thoughts. After penning your thoughts and sitting with them a while, revise them into a cohesive format, keeping only the parts with a purpose.

After using these writing prompts, we would be delighted if you’d submit your work to us at Inscape. Happy writing. 

-Abby Stirland, Inscape