The Benefit of a Prompt

A reoccurring assignment in every writing class that I’ve ever taken has been writing prompts. The instructor gives the class a set amount of time–anywhere from ten to twenty minutes–to write about a given topic. Then there is usually a call for volunteers to read their work aloud afterward. Only a handful of people do before we’re allowed to move on to the next topic.

While finding a writing prompt I like has made me a bit standoffish about doing them, I can’t argue with the results. Embarking on a topic that you don’t usually cover as a writer provides a password to an otherwise locked part of your mind. It opens up doors that were hidden behind that old, moth-eaten tapestry next to the memory of parents taking you to sit on Santa’s lap for the first time. You never would have known you had that story in you.

I’ve discovered a couple of story threads from writing exercises. And while I’m no longer part of a writing class or writing group with any regularity, I do keep any eye out for prompts that spark my imagination.

There are millions of places to find writing exercises, many of which are on the internet. Good old fashioned books of them are available too. Amazon, or even your local bookstore, will have a selection. A number of websites and magazines post prompts as parts of competitions for publication or prizes.

Here area a couple of the websites I’ve come across that have really good prompts.

Writing Competitions
Writer’s Digest: Your Story

Writing Prompts
Writer’s Digest
Creative Writing Prompts

I’ve also created my own collection of writing prompts. Check me out on Twitter @SEStone519 for a new prompt every few days.

Do you have any go-to writing exercises? Let me know in the comments below.

One thought on “The Benefit of a Prompt

  1. evalangston says:

    I’ve gotten some really great stories out of writing prompts and exercises! Sometimes literary journals give you prompts — then you have a readymade place to send your story to. See here:

    Also, I just wrote a blog post about writing exercises inspired by chimps.


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