In A Writing Rut? Try A Prompt

I’ve written before about using prompts to warm up before a productive writing session, but using prompts that fall outside of your typical genre or writing style can be an unmatched creativity booster.

Recently, I’ve been tired and mentally exhausted, a state many writers find themselves often occupying. I decided to warm up in an effort to force my brain to cooperate. Unfortunately, standard prompts weren’t working so I tried working from a horror story writing prompt.

Pscyhological horror is my favorite movie genre and well-crafted fiction in this style has the power to make readers question their own realities. It was a genre I felt belonged only to skilled writers, those who have spent years practicing the techniques necessary for scaring or discomforting readers.

However, I used

His camera could steal people’s souls. On his walls, the portraits wailed and begged for freedom.

as my prompt. Within 15 minutes, I’d written an intensely satisfying horror scene that I’m actually excited to continue. Even better? It boosted my confidence and allowed me to practice writing more descriptively. Because of this practice, I’m considering writing a few horror short stories and expanding outside of my normal style. I might not be successful, but I’ll learn different techniques along the way.

So if you feel stuck as a writer, force yourself to complete writing prompts you otherwise wouldn’t encounter or consider. Your writing rut might be a byproduct of boredom. An unusual prompt from an unfamiliar perspective will help you find new ideas or even a new niche.

Writing Warm-Ups: Stretch Your Mental Muscles

pexels-photo-210661.jpegI sat at my kitchen table this morning, attempting to dive right into a client’s article. But my brain, despite caffeination, couldn’t put one word in front of another and coherently tout the benefits of my client’s services.

I considered switching to another piece I’m working on, dismissing that idea because I’d end up in the same foggy state. So I considered doing something I’d learned at my¬†workshop: start with a warm-up!

Before beginning my workshop, I always placed writing prompts in warm-ups in the realm of high school, college, and fiction writers, not necessarily due to arrogance but because I didn’t think they’d work for me. I’d look at some prompts (“Your phone rings and it’s an unknown number. What do you do?”) and groan at the level of creativity needed to complete the task.

But today, I tried it. I randomly chose a topic (“Describe the weather outside”) and set to work. Ten minutes later, I successfully stretched my writing muscles and eased into my client’s work. And behold, the benefit of stepping outside my comfort zone was fully realized.

I believe writing is like exercising. There are metaphorical muscles needing stretched and gently prodded into activity, regardless if your niche is nonfiction or fiction. I ended up moving from the mundane “It’s snowing outside in March” to a more expansive discussion on how snow days as a child affected me differently than as a parent. Sure, I reached at times, but it was better than doing a practice session on a client’s article or a blog post!

I’m now convinced that prompts and warm-ups should be part of a writer’s toolkit. Moving forward, I’ll start with daily exercises to ease into writing, using them to clear the sleep and distractions from my brain and start working on the fun stuff. The next time you’re struggling with a blank page or half-completed article, try taking a break and giving yourself ten minutes with a prompt. You may find yourself better focused and ready to write.