How Writings Prompt Help You Write

colorful crumpled paper that grew into a crumpled paper tree representing writing ideas using prompts

I remember the first time I bought a book of 365 writing prompts from the clearance section of a book store. Like many readers and writers, I love walking through book stores, searching out hidden treasures. Usually, it’s a good book to read, but this time, it was a good book of ideas. Ideas that meant I could skip a step in the writing process. I walked out of that store so excited to sit down and write. That was the day I realized the power of writing prompts.

In my experience, prompts can help any writer – professional or not, whether you make your work public or not. Here are a few ways they can help.

Lower the Pressure

Have you ever sat in your writing space, knowing this was the time you scheduled to write and had no ideas but feeling a lot of pressure to write? Yeah, me too. The more you focus on the ideas you don’t have and the limited writing time you do have, the more the internal pressure builds. It’s a bit like a boiling pot. At first, you don’t notice the heating rising, and then it’s bubbling over everywhere making a mess. For writers, this often means getting frustrated, giving up, and not getting any writing done.

A prompt eliminates (some of) the stress and frustration of writing. You don’t have to come up with a “brilliant” idea. You can take the idea given to you and see what flows from there.

Overthink a Little Less

Many creative people are chronic overthinkers. One writing tip won’t magically fix that. But when you’re formulating ideas, it’s easy to overthink every detail. What POV should you write in? How many characters should you have? Where should the action start? Think too much, and you’ll think yourself out of starting the story at all.

Writing prompts remove the overthinking barrier by giving you a place to begin. Once you start, some of those decisions will come naturally as the story tells itself. Others might not, but that’s what the editing process is for.

Play with New Ideas

As a writer, I tend to stick with what I know and where I’m most comfortable. I rarely try new styles or forms of writing. But when I’m following a writing prompt, I can’t always do that. Deciding to follow a prompt means I have to give myself over to the directions within that prompt. Which means I might write fiction when I usually choose non-fiction. I might write about sex toys or a sex scene I might not usually write about.

You’re not meant to write these new ideas perfectly. (Nothing can be written perfectly in the first go.) Writing prompts that challenge you are meant to help you find and flex different writing muscles. Maybe you keep your preferred style, but this form of “play” may help you find new methods and new writing paths, too.

Bust Writer’s Block

Many creative writers need to feel inspired to sit down at the keyboard or pick up a pen. When we’re not inspired, we might go days, weeks, even months without writing. Sometimes that break is exactly what we need. Sometimes it fills us with dread because all we want to do is write! Whether it’s the pandemic outside or something else going on with your writing, many things contribute to that blocked feeling. How do you bust through it?

One way (of many!) is to let someone else do the thinking for you. Instead of using creative energy on an idea, use a prompt to get you started. Maybe you only write one or two sentences. Maybe you only outline a plot or a character. But it’s better than doing nothing, and if you do small things like this often enough, you may find yourself on the other side of writer’s block in no time.

Writing prompts aren’t magic beans that you can toss out a window and grow into a story overnight. (Wouldn’t it be nice if they were?!). But they can be a useful tool to help you stretch and grow as a writer and maybe toss writer’s block out the window.

Looking for a few prompts to jumpstart your writing? Check out the Obscene Ideas shop to find 31 days of prompts!

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