Creative Writing Prompts and Warm-Up Writing

I’m not a fan of writing prompts. They make me feel like I’m back in high school English, waiting to get a bunch of red pen marks all over it.

Creative Writing Prompts

I sometimes read books on writing, trying to hone my craft and learn from other writers. The advice I get from these books is great, but inevitably, there are always writing prompts. I usually just skim over them, regarding them as irrelevant.

Why waste my time on writing that isn’t what I really want to write about?

A wise writer friend mentioned that she loved writing prompts. They often surprise her, supplying her with writing that she will use in something else later. And they help her to practice her craft.

She’s right. If I want to be a skillful writer who is continually growing, I need to consider writing prompts. So as I read through a book on writing memoir, I decided I would use some of the prompts that fell at each chapter’s end.

I found this one and was surprised at what tumbled out of my pen:

“Write about someone who wasn’t family from your childhood.”

I wrote about my childhood neighbors, who kindly let me stay with them every weekday after school. I remembered checker games and rabbit shaped pancakes and reading Green Eggs and Ham to them. The writing that emerged from that prompt was sweet and natural. It made me want to write more.

I don’t think that writing will ever see the bright daylight of other reader’s eyes. But it served its purpose. It got my brain thinking back to old memories long lost in the recesses of my brain. This is incredibly important in the craft of memoir, where much of my writing is focused. It also got my pen moving again. I often fall into writing slumps, and need a little kick to get me going again.

I won’t use every writing prompt I see. If I did, I’d never get to the writing I should be doing. Prompts should be used for what they’re meant for; warming up and honing the writing skills we want to polish. It’s like stretching before exercising. Writing prompts help to warm our mind up and get ready for the real writing to come.

QUESTION: Has there been a time when creative writing prompts have helped you? Do you have a favorite writing prompt?

  • Writing prompts help me when I run dry with ideas. I just finished a short story born from a writing prompt, and I’m using several to write scenes for a longer story. The idea born from a prompt usually looks nothing like the idea in the prompt though. I don’t always use them, but they sure are helpful when my own ideas aren’t coming forth. Prompta sort of urge my own thoughts out of hiding.

    • I like the idea of urging your thoughts out of hiding. Sometimes they do need a little prodding.

  • Susan Walters

    I never use creative writing prompts, I think when you are able to write, then you write, and when you are unable to do it, you should search for your own muse. And in cases of college writing I visit to order my paper, rarely, but sometimes it happens.

  • Stephanie McGuire

    What are some great sources to find writing prompts?

  • rmravon

    It was so cool at one of my writing groups. The subject given which was about feet had to do with a book I am writing about lessons learned at the feet of Jesus. It took my thoughts in a deeper direction and I found new ideas that surfaced in the conversation. It was so fun to write and talk about something that God had laid on my heart just earlier that day.

  • Adam Dalton

    I always avoided using writing prompts because of the same reason you mentioned. After reading your post, I think I will give them a chance and see where it leads.