12 Writing Prompts to Get Your Imagination Moving
Updated: Feb 1, 2022
When I’m between writing projects, or just need a change of pace from a long project, I like to indulge in writing prompts to keep my imagination muscles warm. I pull the prompts from books or find them on the web. Sometimes, I make up lists of my own prompts, put them away for a while, and come back to them when I’m in need of somewhere to start.
Most often, I don’t save what I’ve written. It’s a bit like those Buddha boards that were so popular a few years ago. I write, and then I let it go, knowing that ideas are always frolicking in the slipstream of consciousness. I don’t have to grip each one tightly.
Sometimes, though, an idea seems like it should have existence beyond the moment. Then, maybe I work on it some more, or maybe I put it in a file for later.
But really, writing prompts are about practicing thinking, refining our responses to a suggested image, and flexing the muscles of our imagination.
Here are twelve original prompts to get your writing craft moving. Do one a week, or one a month, and see where the writing takes you.
The front page of today’s newspaper reads “FOUND ALIVE!” What is the article about and what is the accompanying picture?
Write a story that starts, “She could smell him before she could see him.”
Write a letter to your son (real or imaginary) imparting the wisdom you most want him to know.
Things that live in the forest…
Come up with a theology based on The Mother, The Daughter, and the Holy Spirit.
Rewrite a Bible story or myth so that it takes place in today’s world.
Rewrite a fairy tale so that it takes place from the perspective of a secondary character.
A new neighbor moves in, imagine your first meeting.
An unusual Romance
Life on the farm
Write a creation myth for an alien civilization.
As you can see, some of these prompts are just a phrase instead of directions for a concept. You can write something about the phrase specifically or you can let your mind free-associate with these phrases and see where they take you.
A few tips for working with writing prompts
1. Switch up your tool for writing.
If you usually write by hand, try diving in on the computer. If you usually write on the computer, try writing by hand. I love writing on the computer. I like to be able to delete instead of cross things out and I find that I think more clearly when I’m writing on a computer. However, when I’m working with a writing prompt, I’ll often write by hand because it forces me to think differently—more freely in some ways.
2. Set a timer
Don’t make a writing prompt an all-day affair. Set a timer for a specific block of time. Ten minutes to thirty minutes. Get in and get out. If the timer rings and you’re really into what you’re writing, keep going. But consider putting it down and coming back to it later in the day to see if you’ve got something worth fleshing out.
3. Write with friends
It’s amazing how differently each person can approach the same writing prompt. If you have a group of writer friends, or a regular writer's group, get together and spend a half-hour on a prompt, then read what you’ve written with each other (or share the direction you took if you aren’t comfortable sharing your piece in such a rough state). My writing group does this for the last thirty minutes of our weekly meetings, and we always learn something from each other in the process.
Ultimately, there is no wrong way to work with a writing prompt. You can use these tips or come up with your own strategies. Just get writing.