The idea for this post was suggested to me by a comment about a previous article ‘Do you have a daily practice?’
lyndart wrote, ‘I have difficulty giving myself permission to let those creative juices flow… Any suggestion for a topic?’
You can use any random word such as ‘trees’ or ‘motor-bikes’ or ‘dinner-time’ for a writing prompt, and there are many sites which offer a fresh suggestion every day. I do this myself for warm-ups with groups, giving a random word and asking them to write freely about it, keeping the pen moving on the paper even if at times they find themselves writing things like, ‘I have absolutely nothing else to say on this topic, I don’t know why I’m doing this,’ until their mind finds its way back to the theme.
But the very best prompts for daily practice are the ones you come up with for yourself because, like dream images, whatever emerges spontaneously from your own relaxed mind will have emotional resonance and personal significance for you right now, whether it’s immediately obvious or not.
To find images which are active in you at the moment, sit comfortably with your notepad or laptop, close your eyes and take a few slow, steady breaths. Clear your mind.
Think of an object – the first thing that comes to you. Don’t censor or try to find something ‘better.’ Write for five minutes, stream-of-consciousness, without pausing. Change direction when one stream runs out, allowing yourself to go where your thoughts take you, even if you stray from your starting-out point.
If you prefer, you can write a list of the first five things you think of, then choose one from your list to write about. You can write for ten or fifteen or even twenty minutes in this way if that’s your daily practice.
Another way of finding prompts that have particular resonance for you is beginning with a phrase such as ‘I remember’ or ‘I wish’ or ‘I love’ or ‘I hate’ because these will take you immediately into areas that you care about.
I often use this kind of prompt in workshops, especially about childhood, which is the living root of every life. I give a topic such as ‘my mother’s kitchen’ or ‘my childhood bedroom.’ I’ve written about this on the wonderful girlsheartbooks blog, ‘What was your favourite toy when you were little?’
The key with daily writing practice, as with all creative endeavours, is pleasure. Writing about themes and topics which have personal resonance is always pleasurable and over time, it will deepen your understanding of yourself as a writer.
Have you got any suggestions for good writing prompts? Please share!