You’ve heard me say before that I don’t believe in writer’s block. I do, however, believe in writer’s laziness, writer’s excuses and writer’s procrastination. I’ll agree—albeit grudgingly—that you might sometimes need inspiration in order to put fresh words on paper. When you feel you have nothing to write about, often it’s because your internal censor is telling you that you can’t write. You have nothing to say. Well turn that sucker off, and stop letting it run your life! Seek a tiny bit of stimulation, and start stringing words on paper. You don’t have to attempt a bestseller today; you simply need to encourage ideas to flow from inspiration. You may ask where you can find that inspiration. (You’re kidding me, right)? It’s all around you! If you feel the brain-pipes are clogged, here are a few ideas and prompts to get the ink flowing, again.
- Pick up any random newspaper and write down three headlines. Any three will do. Now link these headlines into a (somewhat) cohesive story. Hint: Tabloids can provide crazy story ideas that just might turn into a saleable piece!
- Look at a photo in the newspaper, but don’t read the caption. Write your own caption for the picture, as if you were in that photographed scene. Now write the article to go with the caption.
- Circle twelve random words from different articles or advertisements in the newspaper. Write them down. Now write a short-short story using all of those words.
What if? –
- You wake up in jail. How did you get there, and why? Who will you call—and who will you hide this incident from?
- You open a box and find something that will change your life forever. What is it? Tell the story.
- Your character is a really bad guy. Really bad. But today, he knows he’ll never again commit another crime. How did he come to this point, and what was his wake-up call?
- Your character is a near-perfect person. Today she commits a felony. What happened?
From literature –
- Pick any scene from Shakespeare and re-write it with modern characters in your hometown. Think of the story of Hamlet occurring in downtown Boston.
- Mesh a modern-day story with an old fairy tale. For instance, a friend wrote a hilarious story of “Forrest Gump and the Seven Dwarfs.”
- Write down the first line of any novel. Now use it to begin a new, completely different story.
Other sources –
- Choose a scene from one of your own stories. Write it from a different character’s point of view.
- Look in the Yellow Pages for any random company, and think of the career of a person who works for that company. Write a scene based on their job.
- Think of a song you enjoy and read the lyrics. Now write a story based around those lyrics.
- Think about a rumor you have heard. Change the names and setting, then write the story.
I encourage you to try at least one writing prompt each week, even if you’re in the middle of writing a novel or nearing the end of your memoir. Often when you allow your creative mind to switch gears and play with something different, new ideas will form that can enliven your current work. Consider writing prompts your “throw away” work. Don’t worry about revision as you write—just write! If the story turns out to be amazingly good, and this will happen from time to time, then you can go back later and tighten, revise and build upon the initial draft. And when you’re ready for an edit or proofread, you know where to find us!