When I think of writing prompts, I always first think of writing school essays. The teacher’s prompts were usually too vague, or strict and inflexible. I often found them extremely boring, so when I heard that some writers use writing prompts, I thought it absurd. Nonetheless, when I found myself in need of some inspiration, I reached out for writing prompts and I was surprised to acknowledge them as actually conducive to creativity and inspiration. Ever since then, I occasionally use them to start a piece, finish it or add some spice to the story I am working on. They are not only effective for fiction writing but also for journalists, content writers and even in the academic field.
There are several reasons why writing prompts are so useful. We all know that sometimes it is hard to start writing when faced with a blank page. Focusing on an unrelated prompt for a while helps get the creativity flowing. For instance, if you write for just ten to fifteen minutes on a prompt, you might then find it easier to return to the piece you initially intended to write. This works because when you stop trying to think so hard about what you wanted to write and switch your attention to the prompt instead, the words and ideas for your original piece start to come to the surface of your conscious.
Moreover, writing to a prompt regularly helps to get you into the habit of writing by eliminating the habit of procrastination and by focusing your mind. This can act as a sort of exercise regime, easing you to write for longer periods.
Prompts can also be a great way to get involved in a writing community. Sometimes writing groups offer a prompt for everyone to write about, with the intention being for everyone to come up with something they can then share. This can be a source of great encouragement, although knowing that others will read what you have written can also inhibit your creativity.
Here are some writing prompts to try out:
- Someone walks by my table and drops a folded napkin in front of me, trying to be discrete. It is a note, saying: ‘Get out now. While you still can.’
- The window in the garden wall has been boarded up forever, but tonight a dull, violet light pulses in the cracks.
- All of my body’s functions (breathing, digestion etc.) require constant conscious effort.
A piece of advice is to write for as long as your mind will let you, and allow yourself to think freely. You are under no obligation to write until you reach a certain word count or even finish the entire idea. The point of prompts is to get you to write, find a direction and hopefully spark other ideas that you would not have thought of before.
I will end with a quote of one of my favorite authors, Walter Moers. It was the sentence that finally dissolved the writer’s block that had inhibited the author from starting work. I have since used it whenever I have been gripped by fear of the blank sheet in front of me. It is infallible, and its effect is always the same: the knot unravels and a stream of words gushes out on to the virgin paper. It acts like a magic spell and I sometimes fancy it really is one. But, even if it is not the work of a sorcerer, it is certainly the most brilliant sentence any writer has ever devised. It runs: ‘This is where my story begins.’”
Nesrin Nazlieva is a Psychology student at Erasmus University. She decided to follow the example of her predecessors who, back in 1460, left the Karamanid beylik and immigrated to Bulgaria. Instead of Bulgaria, however, she chose the Netherlands. Her short story with a not so short title ‘The Story of a Wanderer Who Traveled the World in Search of His Hat’ earned her a second place in one of the most prestigious national literary contests in 2015. When she is not glued to a book, she spends time working out in the garden, learning Spanish, and trying very hard not to be the worst player at Ludo.