3 Reasons You Should be Using Writing Prompts

Encouragement Writing

Writing prompts can benefit every writer: from the plotter to the pantser (and everyone in between). From the rookie to the veteran author. From the novelist to the flash-fiction aficionado.

But why? And how?

Other than the fact that they’re fun, I’ve come up with three reasons you should be using writing prompts to level up your writing life.


1. Writing prompts help conquer writer’s block

If you’ve ever written anything at all, you’ve probably encountered writer’s block to some degree or another. You’ll be sailing along on your WIP when you’ll hit a wall and all your progress will grind to a halt. This can be for several reasons (including needing to sleep, eat, or just clear your head).

Sometimes, there’s no single reason the words have suddenly dried up, though, and a writing prompt may be just what the doctor ordered.

How can they help?

If you’re a pantser and you’ve dead-ended on your WIP, a very simple writing prompt such as “A New Friend” might be just the right new element to introduce and get the momentum going again. Play with the concept and see where it takes you.

If you’re a plotter, it may be a little harder to incorporate a prompt without goofing with your carefully laid plans. But then again, “harder” is just another way to say “takes more creativity.” {Hey, that looks like a good thing to Tweet! Did you know you can highlight the text to do just that?}

Another way a prompt can beat writer’s block—no matter your writing style—is to use it for a 15- to 20-minute free-writing session. This is a well-known way of giving the mind a chance to relax and the creativity levels a boost.

Rather than trying to incorporate “A New Friend” into your WIP, break away from that project for a short period of time (set a timer, if you like) and write whatever comes to mind based on the prompt. It doesn’t need to have anything to do with your WIP. It will never see the light of day (unless it sparks your next story idea!) so you can write fearlessly and carelessly.

For me, at least, careless writing is some of my most creative.


2. Writing prompts train you to make stories from the unlikely

 If Orson Scott Card is right that “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day…” and that most people don’t see any, but writers see a few, there’s a lot of wasted potential stories floating out there around us.

How can writing prompts help you notice more story ideas?

If you use them right, they provide practice at using even a concept that may not immediately tickle your fancy.

You might be a person who prefers to write about cold political intrigue between neighboring galaxies. You might also be a person who is committed to trying to write something about whatever writing prompt is thrown at you. “A New Friend” is probably going to feel like a foreign writing topic, bland, trite.

But as I said above, “harder” is just another way to say “takes more creativity.”

“Boring” means the same thing. If you sit down and tackle that prompt, you’ll have pushed the boundaries of where your creative mind is willing to go. You’ve gotten out of your writing comfort zone. (Scary out here, isn’t it!)

And the more you can force yourself to do that in exercises, the more you’ll be able to make of the stories all around you.


3. Writing prompts are like weight-lifting for authors

Of course a writing prompt doesn’t actually burn calories or build muscle, but it does definitely exercise the writing muscles. This benefit is very much tied to point 2 above.

Point 2 is really talking about exercising your creativity muscle. That’s what it takes to get a story out of something seemingly dull or random.

Writing prompts can also exercise our writing voice, our grammar skills, our descriptive powers, our dialogue, our sense of tension, and so many other important “muscles.”

This becomes extra important on days when we can’t sit down and have a full-on writing session.

(I have a lot of those days. I’m a stay-at-home mom with four little kids. I really don’t want to let my writing atrophy until my husband sends me to a coffee shop to write on the weekend!)


Are you convinced you should be using writing prompts?

Well, whether I’ve done a good job of that or not, I encourage you to check out a SUPER COOL THING I’ve put together for you (and for me!). Maybe you’ll find it useful…

It’s called “Writing Prompts by Wordquill.com.”

I took the prompts included in my WriteMind Writing Prompt Cards, added some “what-if” scenarios and inspirational pictures, and made a Facebook chat bot that automatically sends you a new prompt each day.

Wait… do you mean I’d be getting a writing prompt via Facebook?

Yep! And it’s really cool: each morning between 7 and 8 (your timezone) you’ll receive a new prompt as a Facebook message. Which means, if you use the Facebook Messenger app, you’ll get a notification on your phone!

It’s easy to unsubscribe if it ends up not working well for you, so why don’t you just hop on over here and give it a shot?

I really hope you enjoy it!

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