100 Prompts to Get the Ink Flowing

By: Christopher G. Fox, PhD

 

“Truthfully, I do a lot of travel, and I get far more ideas from wandering down random roads than from sitting in front of my computer. I’m a firm believer that a writer needs to get out and discover things and people to write about. ~Victoria Schwab

 

A Blank Page Can Become Anything

 

100 ideas to get the ink flowing christopher fox two drops of ink marilyn l davis

 

There’s a reason poets often say, ‘Poetry saved my life,’ for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul’s suffering, the only one registering the story completely, the only one receiving all softly and without condemnation. — Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Getting the ink (or keystrokes) to flow can feel as hard as getting blood from a turnip sometimes. Anything that can help us overcome that is indeed a gift. That’s why I was so pleased to read Noelle Sterne’s recent post here about the power of morning pages. I, too, find the technique, incredibly helpful. I have boxes of notebooks to prove it.

Julia Cameron, the creator of the Morning Pages technique, sets it out clearly: “The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages; they are not high art… Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page… and then do three more pages tomorrow.” 

Morning pages do provide an excellent source of inspiration for future writing, as well as just clearing your mind and instilling a writer’s mindset.

 

Exercising our Brains

 

In addition to mindset, as writers, we also have to learn to build muscle. The old standby exercise of a writing prompt comes up time and again precisely because it works. Some writing prompts exist to give you a topic when you can’t think of one. They are everywhere on the Internet and in writing classes. Others, however, act like more targeted muscle building because they take direct action on the psychological or technical components of the writer’s mind.

Prompts focus on helping us with Perspective Taking, Memory, Observation, Style, Self-Knowledge (Values), Inspiration, and Creativity. Click To Tweet

They can help us break free from cognitive biases that impede our ability to write fairly and observantly.

Finally, muscle-building writing prompts work not only when we feel stuck, but also when we need to grow. And of course, the reality is, we always need to develop our talents, whether writing is new or a lifelong practice.

Below is a list of 100 original writing prompts that can help you do just that. Use them for developing and growing your talents!

Prompts that Lead to Perspective-Taking

 

1. Imagine starting a conversation with a stranger in a grocery store, and write the dialogue you would have

2. Watch a short video clip on YouTube in a language you don’t understand, and write about what you think happened in it

3. Describe a time when you thought you knew someone else’s motives, and it turned out you were wrong

4. Develop a conversation between an adult and a child about a difficult topic

5. Develop a scene where one person is lying to another

6. Narrate something strange that has happened to you with no rational explanation

7. Tell a story from the point of view of someone overcoming a physical challenge

8. Narrate an unexpected event taking place in the midst of ordinary circumstances

9. Make a prediction about something that will happen five years from now

10. Tell a story about when your expectations affected your perceptions of a situation, and how you later realized you had misinterpreted what happened

11. List at least 20 possible alternate explanations or backstories for a recent occurrence in your life

12. Think of a past confrontation you had and write about it from the other person’s perspective

13. Write from the point of view of someone of a different gender, race, ethnicity, etc.

14. Write about why a common stereotype, perhaps one you occasionally find yourself thinking, is not an accurate picture of reality

15. Describe the possible unintended consequences of a new technology that interests you

16. Write an essay about how information and misinformation usually occur in the same form

17. Take an episode of your life that you remember as somewhat painful, and write about it with optimism

18. Make a list of at least 25 pairs of opposites, and choose one pair to explore why they may not be as opposite as people think

19. Think of an activity you generally dislike and describe the parts of it that you can find a way to enjoy

 

Prompts that Exercise Your Memory

 

20. Write about a meal that you vividly remember

21. Write about how you lost touch with someone with whom you once were very close

22. Describe the first three things you did after waking up today

23. Describe the best thing about your day yesterday

24. Go do the laundry or wash the dishes and then write what you can remember of your inner monologue

25. Think of a job or professional environment where you were unhappy, and tell a specific story that shows why

thinking Nik Shuliahin unsplash26. Describe a performance that has stayed with you long after experiencing it

27. Describe a moment when you strongly felt your desire to be a writer

28. Tell the story of a first day at a new school, yours or someone else’s

29. Think of the oldest relative you can remember and describe what you remember about them

30. Summarize a play by William Shakespeare or other classic work of literature that you read at least two years ago

31. Write about a period in your life that you remember least clearly (excluding infancy and early childhood)

 

Prompts That Hone Your Powers of Observation

 

32. Look out the nearest window, then look away and describe what you saw

33. Describe a specific smell in no less than 300 words

34. Describe your typical day to someone who does not have access to the Internet, telephones, or television

35. Imagine and describe the thoughts of three people waiting in line silently

36. Write a detailed account of your morning bath/shower routine from memory

37. Describe someone’s reaction to receiving a gift

38. Explain a favorite pastime to someone who has never heard of it

39. Describe your commute or another trip that you take on a routine basis

40. Take a notepad to a nearby window and list every color and shade of color you can see

41. Listen to someone speaking with an accent and transcribe it phonetically as precisely as you can

42. Describe the actions of a crowd of people

 

Prompts That Experiment with Style

 

43. Take a novel that you recently read, and rewrite the first page in your own style

44. Rewrite a story (your own or another’s) in the form of an Aesop’s fable

45. Write a story using only dialogue

46. Come up with 20 first lines for works of fiction, but only the first lines

47. Translate a favorite story in the form of a poem, or a favorite verse in a story

48. Take a text message conversation from your phone (or messages from social media) and write it up into a literary form of your choice

49. List at least 25 things or situations that could be symbolized by a seed

50. Using a lot of rhyme, but in the form of paragraphs, write at least 300 words

51. Take a look at a list of poetic forms such as this, and try using one you have never used before

52. Do an analysis describing exactly how a favorite piece of writing is put together

53. Take one of your best pieces of writing, and remove all the adjectives and adverbs

54. Read a news story from at least three substantially different sources, and then describe it in your own words

 

Prompts That Explore Self-Knowledge and Values

 

55. Describe a moment when you were deeply disgusted

56. Tell your childhood self what they can do to be a better writer in the future

57. Lay out something that you believe about the world that few or even no other people would agree with

58. Write an essay starting with the words “I would never…”

59. Write down what you will do for the next four hours in the form of a story

60. Tell a story about when someone was unexpectedly kind to you

61. Think back to a moment when you did something counter to your own values and describe what happened

62. Write a letter to your representative about an issue that matters to you (and these really matter, so send it)

63. Think of a big question you did not understand as a child and write the answer you now have to it

64. Tell a story about a mistake

65. Explain something you wish you had known at a critical moment in the past and how it would have helped you

66. Explain why you are or are not good at a particular subject, such as math or foreign languages

67. Use a self-fulfilling prophecy as a primary element in a scene or story

68. Describe a seeming failure that turned out to be for the best

69. Write a story about an unjust outcome and illustrate the injustice without explicitly naming it

70. Write about a time when you learned something that completely changed your point of view on a past situation

 

Prompts That Generate Inspiration

 

71. Write about a space, indoors or outdoors that inspires you to write

72. Write a letter of appreciation to a writer, living or dead, whom you greatly admire

73. Write your own prayer or guided meditation

74. Describe a time in the past when you were unable to think of what to write

75. Draft a list of 20 questions you would ask a writer you admire

76. Go to a mirror and say, “I am an author,” and then write for 30 uninterrupted minutes

77. Write a thank-you speech for an award

78. Write a letter of advice to someone who aspires to become a writer

79. Go to a bookstore and browse, and then write down the ideas and thoughts you had about writing

80. Make an argument for why you find it better to write on paper or using a keyboard

81. Explain why you have always wanted to visit a specific place

Prompts That Foster Creativity

 

82. Write the first word you think of 100 times and then write whatever you think of next, stream of consciousness

83. Write a commercial for a banana

84. Draw a card from a deck of cards (playing or tarot) and write a story involving it somehow

85. Open a nearby book and write down the first whole sentence on page 91, then close the book and keep writing

86. Make up a bedtime story

87. Write as much as you possibly can about (not on…) a blank piece of paper

88. Define creativity

89. Create an original short scene or a vignette involving characters from a favorite TV show

90. Describe a completely imaginary place

91. Develop a scene involving a severe storm

92. Eavesdrop very briefly on a conversation, and then later imagine how the rest of it unfolded

93. Write about something from the point of view of a bird

94. Write about an inanimate object as if it had intentions

95. Draft a response to an opinion piece you recently read

96. Come up with at least 10 different metaphors in your writing process

97. Describe light

98. Outline the sequel to a movie you have always loved

99. Set a time for 60 minutes and just write anything that comes to mind with no concern for logic, grammar, editing, etc.

100. Create 100 writing prompts for yourself

Bio: Christopher G. Fox, Ph.D.

Christopher Fox, Ph.D. two drops of ink marilyn l davis Christopher G. Fox, Ph.D. is a writer and communications strategist living in Los Angeles. He works with executives and subject matter experts to help them build reputations through messages, conversations, stories, and thought leadership. 

His website, Syncresis® is a consultancy focused on thought leadership, patient communication, and content strategy. Its unique virtual operating model means that teams are purpose-built to the needs of a specific client and project.

He is also the creator of Kindness Communication®, which promotes the idea that the worlds we move in can be better places if we make kindness the core of how we operate.

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More posts on Two Drops of Ink Taking the Leap of Faith: From Communication to Conversation 

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9 comments

  1. Christopher,
    Prompts are one of my favorite ways to play with my writing. When I pick one I try to go for one I wouldn’t normally choose, this requires me to stretch myself. I see many on your list I want to try! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Christopher Fox, you are brilliant and big-hearted, I just adore the fact that you have supplied us all of this creative genius. As someone who taught writing for years and years (and dreamt about teaching writing last night!!) I salute you. And I add you to my favorite bookmarks. And yes I will start an original list of 100 writing prompts too. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Aïda, I hope you do! Whether you use these prompts, other prompts, or that spark inside you that leads you to writing on other topics, this world needs more stories, ideas, and voices!

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