Creative Prompts to Spark Your Writing: Part 1

From October 2013 to October 2014, I successfully completed a personal challenge of writing at least 750 words per day for 365 consecutive days. Over the course of the year, I found myself writing about a ton of different things, and came up with a huge list of writing prompts to draw on — an important resource, given that in-the-moment inspiration doesn’t always come so easily!

I’ve gone back through all 365 of those posts and drawn out my favorite writing prompts. I’ve rewritten them to be a bit more clear and specific, and listed many of them here — from reminiscing about quirky favorite childhood activities, to mining your everyday experiences for stories, to considering what you’d change about how your favorite subject is learned — for you to use as you like!

I hope they’ll prove a useful resource, whether you’re just starting to build your own writing habit, or are a long-time writer looking for new sources of inspiration.

This is Part 1 in a series where I’ll be sharing my complete collection (thus far!) of my favorite writing prompts. Scroll to the bottom and enter your email to download a free PDF of all 50+ sparks.

Childhood Favorites

What were your favorite things to do as a child? Are there any weird, special, or otherwise memorable fun creative activities you’d do? For example, I can remember making elaborate blanket forts, playing basketball outside near my house, and enacting strange plays with my sister and her friends. Any things you used to do that continue to influence you today? Anything you’d like to revisit more; any childhood creativity you may have lost and would like to bring back?

Books You’d Like to Write

What book (or books!) would you like to write? Start with general — topic, genre, style — and narrow your way down to the particular. Try to brainstorm titles, draft up a rough list of chapters. How would the book start and how would it end? What sort of work would be involved to get to a point where you’d feel comfortable actually writing this book? What stories or ideas, beyond your current expertise, might you devote more time to exploring in depth?

Your Ideal Conference

What would your ideal conference, or other sort of learning-focused event, look like? What are your most and least favorite aspects of conferences or events you’ve attended in the past? What are some ways in which you think conferences could be improved upon or reinvented? Imagine you could create your own conference, about anything you want, with whatever speakers, formats, venues (etc.) you could dream of — now, describe it in as much detail as possible. Who, what, when, where, why, how?

The Compound Returns of Learning

Think about all the thing you’ve learned, are currently learning, and would like to learn in the future. Think about the time and energy you’ve invested in reading, writing, planning, conversation, relationships, and more. Consider these things in terms of the compound returns accrued by your “learning investments” — how have these things continued to impact your life? How might you direct your learning to plan for better “returns” in the future?

Career Reflection; Career Design

Describe your experience at your current job, or the recent job that’s been most interesting to you. What have you learned about how you work? What have you learned about what kind of structure you like, or dislike; what tasks and activities do you find yourself drawn to? If you could redesign your job, what would the new, altered one look like? Do you find that you’re currently in something close to your ideal position or career, or if you could wave a magic wand and do whatever you wanted to do, would it look drastically different?

Rethinking How We Learn [X]

Think about something you studied in school, preferably something you devoted a lot of time to (like your major, or something you took several classes in). What’s broken with the way that thing is taught? If you could design the future of learning in that area, what would be different? For example, if you studied art, what would look different to you in your ideal “future of arts education”?

Remembering Your Dreams

Can you remember any dreams you’ve had recently? If so — what happened in them? How did they make you feel? If you try to analyze them (in the Jungian sense or whatever) does anything stand out as making sense in terms of your waking life, or not? What would you like to dream about tonight?

Habits and Hobbies

Describe some of your habits and hobbies — is there anything in particular you do that others would find unique or distinctive? How exactly do you do these things, and why do you think they’ve persisted? Do these habits help you in some particular way, fill a niche or need in your life? Are there any you do that you’d like to stop? Any you don’t do consistently that you’d like to make stick?

The Stories Surrounding You

I think there are more stories around us than we tend to notice by default. Think about what’s going on around you, what you’ve experienced lately — can you think of any ways there might be an interesting story embedded, somehow latent, in an aspect of that experience? This doesn’t have to be strictly literal or 100% fact-based…even if you can’t think of something obvious, try to excavate a story from something around you — false memories, specific places, other people and faces, icons, whatever. Coax a narrative out of disparate facts and observations; focus your powers of invention on the reality around you.

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