Creative Writing Ideas: 12 Powerful Exercises That Work

Would you like to find more great creative writing ideas that you can use for your stories, articles, or even for your book?

Perhaps, you’re facing more common problems like writer’s block and can’t think of anything good to write about?

Or maybe you want to take your articles or stories in a different direction?

This post covers 12 different, great creative writing ideas that work for new fiction and non-fiction writers of all types.

1. Work on Your Writing Skills

Consider the weakest part of your writing and how you can improve it.

Some writers want to introduce or conclude their articles with a bang. Others want to inject color into their work. Learning a new writing skill via an online writing course will carry over to different types of writing.

For example, several years ago, I took a series of courses in copywriting. Afterwards, I was able to apply lessons from these copywriting courses to improve the types of blog posts that I wrote and published.

Similarly, learn the fundamentals of storytelling, and your non-fiction will improve too.

When was the last time you worked on an area of your craft?

2. Practice Exercises for Beating Writer’s Block

Many new writers worry about writer’s block. They claim they can only write when they have a good idea.

They sit around and wait for inspiration to come, but inspiration never arrives.

A doctor doesn’t say he can’t operate on a patient because he’s not feeling it. An electrician doesn’t skip a job because they don’t have any great ideas about completing the work.

If you don’t have anything good to write about, turn up in front of the blank page or the computer and write about whatever comes to mind for 15 or 30 minutes without editing yourself. This simple act will eventually unlock fresh thinking.

3. Use an Opening Line Your Favorite Book

Think of a book that you really enjoyed reading. Go back through that book, take out one of the first lines from a chapter you found particularly engaging, or even take the first line from the book’s start.

Write that down on a blank piece of paper or in your document on your computer or writing app of choice and use it as a jumping-off point into something more creative. When you’re finished with this creative writing exercise, go back and remove that first line.

4. Use Creative Writing Prompts

Writing prompts serve as a springboard upon which to jump into your work. Build your own library of personal writing prompts. Alternatively, use writing prompts created by other authors to start writing faster.

Much like taking the first line from a great book, a writing prompt offers confines within which to write. They act as story starters for when you need some help.

If you need help, I’ve even written a book of 101 different creative writing prompts with printables. The creative writing prompts in this book work for many genres.

5. Write a Short Story

Short stories are fantastic creative writing exercises because it doesn’t take too long to write one. You can probably finish yours in a couple of days. You can also explore different popular genres like romance, sci-fi, or thrillers.

Short stories teach writers to come up with an idea and stick with it until it’s done.

Finishing short stories will also give you more materials to show other readers. The discipline of storytelling transfers to non-fiction writing and blogging too.

6. Change the Point of View

Consider a piece that you’ve written recently: is it in the first, second person, or the third person?

Would it become a more interesting article or story if you changed the main character’s point of view to the villain?

For example, blogging involves writing in the first or second person and is conversational. In academic writing, the third person’s point of view is more common.

If you’re writing short stories or fiction, perhaps you could change the point of view or rewrite it from a different character’s point of view. Years ago, a writing instructor tasked us with this idea, and it helped me fix a problem in my story.

A good grammar checker can help with this.

7. Go on a Road Trip

Traveling feeds the mind. If you’re out of creative writing ideas, why not visit somewhere new?

A trip to an art museum, a concert, or a foreign city will expose you to new experiences. It will provide mental food to write about when you return home and help you see the world from a different perspective.

At the very least, you can use your trip for this next creative writing idea.

While you’re at it…

8. Use Photographs as Writing Ideas

The best camera is the one you have with you at the time.

If you often sit down at your desk and spend a frustrating half-hour describing a particular scene, use a photograph instead.

Snap your ideal bar, café, cityscape, or location. Photography is a good creative exercise as it forces you to look at the world from a fresh point of view. Old photographs can also turn into fun story ideas too.

Alternatively, if you’re really stuck, use Google imagery to examine the location in question. It’s like time travel!

9. Start Journaling Daily

Journaling is a fantastic creative writing exercise because writing in your journal is for you and you alone.

It also forces a writer to regularly sit down in front of the blank page and write without any fears or expectations. Document your everyday life and engage in some introspection.

Record interesting family members, best friends, and strangers say. Journal about what you did or want to do, where you went, or a big goal. Write about what high-school felt like.

Reread old journal entries too. You may even find interesting ideas for future works.

10. Enter Writing Contests

Writing contests or competitions serve as a deadline, and they act as a genre within which to write. Pick a writing contest related to your interests, niche, or specialism. Now use the submission date as a target to write towards.

Some writing contest judges will provide editorial feedback about your stories or submissions, and you can use this to improve. (You may have to pay for this)

When I started out writing, I entered a series of writing contests. However, I was only shortlisted. Entering taught me the importance of coming up with a creative writing idea and sticking with it until done.

At the very least, you’ll end up with more material to work with.

11. Use a Story from Real-Life

Fact is stranger than fiction.

Using a story from real-life lends credibility to your work.

If you’re unsure of where to look, consider interviewing a subject matter expert in your field.

Alternatively, read through some history books related to your topic and see if you can pull out an interesting anecdote about a key figure.

Examine the bestseller lists from 50 or 100 years ago and pick a book people have forgotten. You may be surprised by an interesting, overlooked tail.

Stop Using Social media

Inputs are as important as outputs, and social media often represents needless information. It can also cause anxiety and comparisonitis.

If you stop using social media for large parts of the day and avoid checking email, you’ll free your mind up for fresh creative thinking. You’re also less likely to worry your work isn’t good enough.

Social media has its place. Yes, it’s like a grain of sand that goes into your jar only after other creative work.

12 Write and Publish a Book on Amazon

If you’re looking for a big creative writing activity, why not start writing a book that you self-publish on Amazon this year?

It’s easier than ever to write and self-publish a book today, thanks to the proliferation of writing apps and tools authors have access to.

Writing and self-publishing a book for the first time will teach you the fundamentals of the craft and what readers enjoy. After all, now you’re writing for more than yourself, a family member or best friend.

Even if your first book isn’t a huge success, you’ll still be able to call yourself an author and more creative skills for creating a better second or third book.

Creative Writing Ideas: The Final Word

Creativity is a muscle in that you must work out to build it. That means writing early and often.

Make something every day. Put your art or writing first, and share your work with early readers and fans.

So, pick a creative writing idea from this list and get to work!

Creative Writing Ideas: FAQs

What are good creative writing topics?

Write about a problem in your personal life, a challenge you overcame, a fight or art that inspired you. Consider historical figures you admire or would like to meet. Other creative writing topics include your heroes, mentors, bullies and villains.

How can I make creative writing interesting?

Write from the heart as if to a friend. Explain clearly what happened and why it matters. Use dialogue and everyday conversations. Show rather than tell the reader what happened.

How do you structure a creative writing piece?

Consider what you want to say and who will read the piece. How long should it be and what’s the tone of voice. Is it a short story, poem or book? Study the conventions of your genre and apply them. Outline your work in advance, write the first draft quickly and then revise two or three times for clarity. Then, seek out feedback.

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  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.