For creative writers, often the hardest words to find are the first. Fortunately, there are a litany of sites dedicated to writing prompts. For those who need a refresher, writing prompts are those pithy, literary starter breads that posit a point of creative meditation and goad you to explore it with words, words, words. Below are 5 of the best writing prompt sites you can use to fan the flames when you’ve got creative burnout.
1. Writing Prompts via Tumblr
Luke Neff’s Tumblr blog, the aptly titled Writing Prompts, is an image-rich collection of whimsical prompts that is frequently updated and draws from a panoply of sources (he even includes a “submit a writing prompt” button so you can share your own). Though some prompts will be most useful to those who speak geek (“Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter engage in a duel. Tell the story”) others are more apt to inspire creative thinking by encouraging you to make novel connections between existing concepts (but without light sabers).
2. Creative Writing Prompts at Writer’s Digest
Grand-daddy writing rag Writer’s Digest has enlisted dedicated prompter Brian A. Klerns to provide weekly doses of inspiration. Klerns’ writing prompts are quite developed, hence, in my experience, they serve better as a “warm-up” exercise rather than the kind of kernel one might transplant directly into one’s magnum opus. Writers are invited to post the results of their inspiration in the comments, which is the writing equivalent of practicing group Tai Chi in the park. This can be useful, however, for those out for the quick dopamine hit that comes with seeing one’s work “out there.” If Kerns’ 200-plus comment count is any indication, it works.
You’ve just moved into a new house and are fixing it up. In the process of painting you find an odd crack in the wall. As you explore further, you find out it’s a secret passageway—and you have no idea where it leads. You decide to grab a flashlight and go exploring.
3. Creative Copy Challenge
Every Monday and Thursday, a trio of writers (Shane Arthur, Sean Platt and David Wright) post blogs that contain 10 random words or phrases and encourage writers to “create and submit a cohesive, creative short story tying all the words together” in the comments section. Throughout their site, Messrs. Arthur, Platt and Wright chide writers with the cheeky kind of reverse psychology one might use on a toddler: “This is a writing prompt. Bet you can’t do it!” Somehow, it works. Moreover, as the site warns, the activity can be addictive. The email sign-up and rss subscription options at Creative Copy Challenge will aid frictionless delivery of your prompt fix.
4. Easy Street Prompts
East Street Prompts offers a trove of not only visual prompts but video and random word prompts as well. Their goal? They want to “start a creative pandemic.” Consequently, they don’t limit their prompting efforts to merely scribes but “artists, writers, and the terminally creative.” Likewise, Easy Street Prompts encourages posting one’s terminal creations in the comments section. Though not updated too frequently, the site is close to cresting 1000 prompts, which should keep one relatively inspired at least in the short term (even daily use would take nearly three years to exhaust their supply).
5. Thirteen Writing Prompts
Humorist Dan Wiencek deftly pops the writing prompt bubble with his rapier wit via his droll satire Thirteen Writing Prompts, published at McSweeney’s. Ironically, I found Wiencek’s send-up the most inspiring of the writing prompt lot as it points out the relative absurdity of being bereft of ideas when the marketplace of ideas is having a perpetual fire sale. My favorite of Wiencek’s pseudo-prompts:
“Write a short scene set at a lake, with trees and shit. Throw some birds in there, too.”
Bonus Prompts Courtesy of the Crowd
Reddit’s creative community of writers prompts a special mention: Prompt of the Day, a well-moderated subreddit dedicated to the art of prompting to help it’s 1700-plus writers get to it!