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The Power of Writing Prompts

The Power of Writing Prompts

ideas and prompts mindset tools Apr 07, 2024

When I first started writing, my young mind decided that writing prompts were a tool that limited your abilities as a writer. Clearly, if I was using a prompt, I wasn’t being creative enough and it’s called creative writing for a reason. Did it occur to me that the short “Inspirations” my high school creative writing teacher gave us were just writing prompts? Not until I was at university.

 

Look, I’m not known for my critical thinking skills.

 

Putting aside my teenage obtuseness, I am grateful that I eventually saw the light and realized that writing prompts are a tool used to build up and improve writers’ abilities. And so here I am, enlightened and determined to make sure that the writing world hears about the versatility and importance of writing prompts.

ALSO: The Perks of Not Being Original Enough

 

Deliberate Practice

Have you ever looked back on a story you wrote three months, a year, or three years ago and thought, “Wow. I can’t believe I wrote that” and then wished you could burn every word without destroying your laptop?

 

 

Well, take comfort in knowing that this is a universal experience for all writers with more than one draft worth of experience – and it means you’re growing as a writer.

ALSO: Three Essential Resources for the Growing Writer

I use writing prompts as a starting point for deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is the act of purposefully working toward improvement, and that means doing something that you need to improve at. I find that if I depend on myself to direct my writing practice, I write what I know. I’ll use characters and worlds I’ve already built. I work with the same genres I write in every day.

I don’t do anything new.

When I use writing prompts as a starting point, I’m immediately forced into doing something new. The prompts rarely fit the characters and worlds that I’ve already built, meaning that I either need to work with an AU or create a new cast. It also means that I don’t choose the genre I’m working in, and that means I’m less likely to end up somewhere familiar.

 

Fighting Writer's Block

I think the most frustrating advice on fighting off writer’s block is to “just keep writing.” Like, the whole point is that I can’t do that.

Unfortunately, it’s also the most effective.

Inertia’s a bitch. 

Even worse than inertia is that there are times where my brain – and my perfectionism – refuses to “just keep writing.” I get completely wound up by the possibility that I’ll write something I absolutely hate, need to delete it all, and end up back where I was in the first place but with half a dozen deleted pages on my conscious! 

ALSO: Breaking Down Writer's Block

Sometimes it’s easier for me to “just keep writing” something else and while I love project hopping as much as the next ADHD writer, it can feel a little like Russian Roulette sometimes. Will I get too invested and never get back to the original project? Will I get stuck on the second project and end up too frustrated to keep writing anything? There are times the risks just aren’t worth it.

And those times are where the writing prompts enter the chat. I’m less likely to get invested in a prompt to the point of ignoring my original project (although I will admit it did happen once) which also means that if I get stuck, I can just toss the story in the graveyard and move on to another prompt. 

Risks, minimized. Words, just keeping.

 

Finding Inspiration

Meet the uglier step-sister to the original ugly step-sister that is writer’s block.

You've finished your last short story. You're full of motivation. You've got twenty minutes left until the kids wake up.

And you've got zero ideas. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. It is empty behind your eyes. 

But you still want to write.

For many writers, the act of writing is a hobby before it’s a career. This means that writing is often used to pass time, relax, or simply find enjoyment. And there’s little that is more frustrating than wanting to write and, unlike with writer’s block, knowing that you actually could if you just had a starting point.

Sometimes when you’re mentally ready to write, the muses take a while to catch up. And sometimes the muses need a bullhorn pointed at them letting them know they need to show up or risk being replaced. Writing prompts are that bullhorn.

 

A prompt generator is the fastest way to find quick inspiration. It lets you control some of the variables of the generated prompt, which is great if you’re looking for something to build a story off of. That’s not to say that pre-written prompts can’t be used as inspiration, it just takes a little more work, and time, to find a prompt you connect with if you have no control over the inputs

And connection is key. Unlike using writing prompts to deal with writer’s block or even for deliberate practice, you want to really enjoy what you’re writing. You want it to be something you’re willing to follow to the bitter end.

Writing prompts are the thneed of the writing world. Designed to solve a dozen different problems and easy to tweak and solve a dozen more.

 


 

FAQ

Where can I find writing prompts?

Random prompt generators can be a great place to start! 'Creative Writing exercises and Prompts' website is my favorite generator.

There are also dozens, if not hundreds, of social media accounts dedicated to posting new prompts frequently. Personally, I love to use the writing-prompt-s tumblr page.

 

Does using a writing prompts detract from originality?

Hard no. Not only are prompts themselves designed to spark and encourage creativity and originality, but every author will pull a different story from the same prompt. In fact, my current WIP is prompt based and resembles the prompt itself exactly 0% at this point.

 

Is it bad if what I write strays from the prompt as I write it?

How closely you follow a prompt – or how far you stray from a prompt – has absolutely no impact on how effective the exercise is or how good your writing is. Again, prompts are designed to spark and encourage creativity, not limit it.

 

What does deliberate practice look like in writing?

Deliberate practice looks like intentionally writing in styles, genres, and tropes that you struggle with in order to struggle with them less.

In addition to writing prompts, I practice writing deliberately by rewriting a familiar plot using different plotting methods, writing short stories in genres that are new to me, and rewriting old stories in my updated style.

 


Elizabeth Miles
Written for The Plottery

I’m Elizabeth Miles, but you can call me Lizzie! I am a full-time stay-at-home mom and part-time author during breaks from chasing down over-confident toddlers. Mystery, romance, and fantasy are my favorite genres for both reading and writing. You can find me on Instagram (@authorlizziem) and TikTok (@authorlizziemiles)!

 

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