Create your own writing prompts with ease

Photo compliments of author

Blank pages come in myriad forms. Ghostly rectangles on desktop screens. College-lined blue on white cheap paper. Yellow schoolchild tablets. Heavy pebbly stationary with a monogram. Yet they have a commonality: blank pages beg to be filled. With writing.

I prefer the blank white of my desktop. My fingers can fill a page up in no time at all, except when they can’t. When I’ve hit a wall and don’t know what to write next or what to write at all. Those are the times I need a prod, a prompt, a reset.

Writing prompts fit the bill for these and many other situations. They come in all shapes and sizes on the internet, but I tire of hunting for them and deciding whether or not they’re worth a share of my email address. Instead, I prefer the freshness of creating my own writing prompts. You might, too.

Here’s a few ways to create D.I.Y. writing prompts. All of them can be used multiple times.

When you need a prompt, choose one of their quotes. Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Austen, and Eleanor Roosevelt have left many pithy quotations. How could you be blocked after reading Angelou’s “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

Open a stock photo site on the internet and search for “popular” or anything else you desire. Take the first photo as your inspiration.

Eavesdropping on folks who talk loudly, who clearly have no expectation of privacy or secrecy, is fertile ground. One afternoon, walking through the social services department from my nearby desk in the health department, a voice from a cubicle opined, “Sometimes you have to go to jail for just being stupid.” I wrote it down. There’s a story or two in that offhand comment.

Use the equipment you have to create a recorded series of sounds and/or songs. Play a bit or all of it to prod your writing.

Use them later as writing prompts. You can record them as audio on your phone or by hand in a small notepad. The glint of the sun on a child’s hair, the aroma of the Italian bakery in Philadelphia, the echoes in an indoor swimming pool are all potential prompts. As are conspiracy theories from your quirky aunt. Not that I have one.

Whenever you need a prompt, stop right where you are and look around you. Pick the “-est” thing that catches your eye — the prettiest, the bluest, the oldest. You get the idea. Then take that as your prompt and write about the prettiest thing you see.

Set aside a small box or basket for a few of the intriguing little objects you come across. A seashell, a fortune cookie’s prediction, a Christmas ornament, a postcard. These can trigger your writing by their appearance, their smell, and also by memories and emotions associated with them.

These are a few ways you can develop your own unique writing prompts while honing your observational skills. Be creative and have fun with them.

Virginia writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of Diaspora, a poetry chapbook.

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