Well, you’re not alone.
Ernest Hemingway said:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
It’s no wonder many new writers struggle when they start sitting down in front of the blank page regularly.
So, what to do?
I’ve spent more than my fair share of time looking at the blank page and wondering what to do next. (Perhaps that goes some way to explaining my rapidly receding hairline).
Today, I avoid moments like this through the power of writing prompts.
Here, I’ve gathered 101 proven writing prompts for adults that you can use today.
In this article, I’ll cover:
Why Use Writing Prompts?
Whether you are trying to improve your writing skills, or you are writing a book, writing prompts can give you the spark of creativity needed to get started.
A writing prompt is a fragmented sentence or writing idea that is used as a topic to start writing.
The purpose of using a writing prompt is to expand your point of view or thoughts on a topic to get your creativity and words flowing.
Many people forget about writing prompts after high school, but it turns out they aren’t just for high school students. They are pretty darn useful for even the best of writers.
Plus they are great for short story writing!
A good prompt will help you start writing when you feel like you’ve got nothing to say or when you don’t know how to begin your work.
They’re also particularly useful for new writers who want to build a habit of writing every day but are unsure of what to write about.
How to Use These Writing Prompts
The below writing prompts aren’t meant as the final first line for your work.
Instead, you can use them as a jumping-off point into your work or for free writing.
- In your journal, take one of these lines, write it down, and then write whatever else comes to mind.
- Do this for at least 30 minutes.
This is good enough to accomplish something on the blank page, but not so long that it feels overwhelming.
Later, when you’ve something more polished, go back and delete the writing prompt.
101 Writing Prompts
1. “I remember the first time I…”
2. “I remember the last time I…”
3. “The next time I…”
4. “It tasted like…”
5. “It felt like…”
6. “It sounded like…”
7. “We were wrong about…”
8. “We were right about…”
9. “That was the day we…”
10. “This is our new…”
11. “It’s here.”
12. “I learnt that…”
13. “I made a terrible mistake when…”
14. “Nobody expected us to…”
15. “Do you know why…”
16. “It’s always important to…”
17. “Most people don’t know this but…”
18. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but…”
19. “Here’s a secret nobody knows…”
20. “I do this because…”
21. “Admit it.”
22. “I found out that…”
23. “He gave us a…”
24. “She took a…”
25. “We found a…”
26. “I was in pain.”
27. “We discovered…”
28. “Today is a good day for…”
29. “Tomorrow is a bad day for…”
30. “This time it will be different.”
31. “We need to talk about…”
32. “You need to face up to…”
33. “Our only hope is…”
34. “On my desk, I can see…”
35. “Outside the window there’s…”
36. “I ate…”
37. “If I was…”
38. “When I’m…”
39. “Go to…”
40. “Now that we…”
41. “We argued about…”
42. “Being wrong is hard because…”
43. “Being right is lonely because…”
44. “Together we can….”
45. “Apart we are…”
46. “Let me guess.”
47. “If I understand you correctly, you think…”
48. “My friend is…”
49. “I love her because…”
50. “I hate him because…”
51. “We’re going to…”
52. “Let’s take a trip to…”
53. “My favourite…”
54. “I’m lost.”
55. “We want to get to…”
56. “The weather is…”
57. “We’re going to eat…”
58. “Food is…”
60. “Money is…”
61. “Help is…”
62. “Sex is…”
63. “Last night I dreamt of…”
64. “I slept for…”
65. “I’m working for…”
66. “I failed at…”
67. “I succeeded at…”
68. “You showed me how to…”
69. “He sat me down and explained that…”
70. “She made us laugh when…”
71. “My hero is…”
72. “My enemy is…”
73. “I regret…”
74. “This time we went too far.”
75. “I told him…”
76. “She told me…”
77. “I looked in the mirror and saw….”
80. “I awoke at 3 am and realised…”
81. “I should have listened.”
82. “He won’t do that again.”
83. “It was the first storm of the year…”
84. “Her eyes are…”
85. “His hands make me want to…”
86. “She tastes like…”
87. “He feels like…”
89. “How can we…”
90. “Open your…”
91. “Keep it safe.”
92. “It’s a new day.”
93. “It’s later than we think.”
94. “If I ever see another…”
95. “The best day of my life was…”
96. “The worst day of my life was…”
97. “When I’m king…”
98. “You could be a queen of…”
99. “Looking back…”
100. “They caught me.”
101. “I was crushed because…”
A Few More Writing Topics
All the writing prompts above serve as story starters and inspiration to spark your imagination.
Writing prompts come in all shapes and forms. They can be fragmented sentences or actual writing topics.
Creative writing prompts, like journal prompts, are usually more extensive than story starters. Here are some examples:
- Write a poem on your favorite person or place.
- Write a personal essay describing the timeline of your life.
- Think back on a homework assignment from when you were in middle school or high school that left a significant impact on you.
- Write an essay on a school teacher that made an impact on who you are.
- Did you grow up to have the life or career you imagined you would have?
- Discuss how social media has impacted our ability to communicate with one another.
- Explain your dream valentine’s day.
- Which American cinema has given you the most inspiration?
- You are at the grocery store, and you run into someone you haven’t seen in years. Who is it? Write a narrative of the experience.
- Write an essay about your favorite book. Was there a character that grabbed your attention? Did you find inspiration to run off into a world of imagination? Explain what happened in the book and why it is your favorite.
- Which famous person would you like to meet? Explain why.
- Write an expository essay on how to write a book. List the steps and explain to your reader the pros and cons of writing a printed book versus an e-book.
- What is your opinion on religion as a whole?
- Write an essay on an experience when you learned a tough lesson. What happened?
- If you were to write a book, what would your main character be like?
- Write a short essay about a dystopian world like in Handmaid’s Tale. What led this world to become dystopian? Will the people rise out of the ashes?
- List your favorite phrases. Do they have anything in common? Try to create your own.
- What is your opinion on the decline of American school funding?
- In your opinion, should teens be allowed to play violent video games?
- Think back on a good memory with your best friend or family members. What happened in the experience? Who was there?
- Why do you love writing? What led you to become a writer?
The creative writing prompts can go on. Creative writing can include anything from poetry to journal writing about one’s real-life experiences.
Creative writing can take the form of a narrative, an expository essay, a short story, a dialog, and even a social media post.
It is a gateway to thought and imagination. A chance to get the creative wheels in your mind cranking.
What To Do Next
Ok, I’ll admit it. My list of prompts works for me because I wrote it 🙂
No, that’s not the sound of my over-sized ego banging off the ceiling…
The biggest writing tip I can offer is to create your list of writing prompts and add to it over time.
Whether you’re writing a blog post or a book chapter, keeping a personal library of writing prompts will save you hours of wasted time.
Use a notepad. Use a digital app like Evernote. Use the back of your hand if you have to… but build your library.
Start by taking a great first line from your favourite book, writer or story.
You could go on to record snippets of conversations, headlines you like and even writing ideas you come across in great books.
Like coins filling a jar, one day you’ll look into your library and discover you’re rich with creative writing ideas.
Tailoring Your Writing Routine
Writing prompts are a fantastic way to get the writing process started, but there’s more to good writing than a creative idea.
The most successful writers have a few more strategies that they put to use on a daily basis to keep their writing sharp and effective.
If you really want to hone in on your writing skills and productivity, focus on these four things in your writing process:
1. Create a Writing Schedule
Dedicate an uninterrupted, scheduled writing time for your work.
Whether it be once a day or once a week, figure out what works best for you and stick to it! An effective writing schedule is essential for productive writing.
2. Create a Word Count Goal
Create a realistic word-count goal for each writing session. If you are reaching your goal easily, increase the count. This is beneficial for productivity and staying focused.
3. Be Prepared to Deal with Writer’s Block
Writer’s block is inevitable.
There will be days where you simply cannot get a single word onto paper.
Prepare yourself beforehand by keeping a few tricks up your sleeve such as a commonplace book for writing ideas, and a list of writing prompts that have been effective in the past.
The more you practice getting out of writer’s block when you are in it, the less often you will struggle with it.
4. Discuss Your Work With Others
Discussing your current project with others not only holds you accountable for your deadlines, but it can lead to more ideas. Moreover, it gets the word out about your work and sparks anticipation!
Writing Prompts Resources
Bryan Cohen has written a series of books with writing prompts based around events, occasions and characters, the most comprehensive book being his boxset 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts Box Set.
If you like using great first lines as prompts, The First Line Generator will spew one up at random from a great book.
Reddit has a comprehensive forum packed full of free writing prompts, with a heavy emphasis on fiction writing.
Writer’s digest has an entire web page dedicated to writing prompts.
Ryan Andrew Kinder has gathered more writing prompts than you shake a blank page at in his book 1001 Awesome Writing Prompts.
The Story Shack offers a useful writing prompt generator for fiction writers.
The New York Times has a specific list of writing prompts for narrative and personal fiction.
If you want to inject more colour into your writing, check out The Comic Tool Box: How to Be Funny Even If You're Not by John Vorhaus.
If you want to write more jokes, read Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer.
Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within doesn’t cover writing prompts per-say, but she goes into great detail about how to find ideas and tackle problems like writer’s block.
Robert McKee’s book Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting is essential reading if you want to tell better stories.
Evernote is a great place to build your library of personal writing prompts. Alternatives, include Simplenote and Google Keep.
If you want to practise journaling, the app Day One is purpose-built for just that. You can even include photos alongside your time and location-stamped entries.
Finally, if you really love writing and want to see how you compare to other writers, enter your work into writing contests!
These 101 writing prompts and other writing topics have always provided the creative impetus needed to give my writing skills a boost.
So, next time you feel the shackles of the writer’s block restrain your creativity, pick up one of these writing prompts to fire up your imagination! You can even use these as content writing practice exercises.
Want more? Check out our list of writing tips.
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