How to Use Writing Prompts to Get in the Flow

Those times when you just can’t seem to put the pen to the paper (or the fingers to the keys) can be intimidating. If you don’t learn how to get past this phase of writing, you’ll probably end up quitting altogether. Don’t let that happen! Whether you’re getting into blogging or just keeping a daily journal, you can use writing prompts to get things rolling.

Writing prompts come in many forms—you can use them to prompt a new poem or to get into your personal essay. Jumpstart your writing by finding a prompt that appeals to you. Often, this means just searching around for a prompt that works for you. You can use google, a specific blog or website, find a great prompt book, or check out some of the ideas down below to get started.

First of all, what is a prompt? It’s just a simple direction to use in order to get your writing started. Some prompts are specific: “Write about a time you were incredibly embarrassed. What happened? How did you get there? What feelings did you sense? How did you overcome this feeling?” Other prompts may be more general, and will leave you a bit more creative freedom: “Write a poem using all five of your senses.” It doesn’t have to be poetry, though. Prompts can be used for a lot of different types of writing, assuming there’s at least some freedom regarding your topic.

There are two main things with writing prompts you should remember:

First, pick a prompt that interests you and is applicable to what you want to write. It won’t help you at all if you’re using a poetry prompt, but your goal is to write an essay about business. Make sure your prompt is something that matches the outcome you want. However, you also want to allow the prompt to push you out of your comfort zone.

I can think of a few examples. When I was first getting into using prompts to write poetry, I had been stagnant for a while—I felt like I had been writing the same poem over and over for weeks, and I tossed everything I wrote. Then I found a poetry prompt that required me to “write a poem that will fit in the palm of your hand.” I responded with a million questions: Does that refer to the actual size of the poem? Does it mean to write about a small object? Would I dare to venture away from the usual kind of writing I was comfortable with?

The answer was that it is meant to be interpreted in whatever way I liked, and that I was asking too many questions. I wasn’t comfortable writing a tiny poem, but it was a great exercise for me to use in order to break away from my go-to format of poetry. It was challenging for me. Turns out, it was a great thing…not only did it reinvent my writing with a fresh perspective, but it also gave me a new way of accessing writing—by using a prompt. The poem ended up being about a taco, which I was holding in my hand when I read the prompt (don’t ask).

This leads us to a second thing to remember. Let the prompt take your writing where it wants. Instead of trying to manipulate the outcome of the writing session, just let the prompt pull out of it freely. Let the results surprise you. Maybe you began the prompt in order to write with a particular theme, like comedy, but then the prompt led you to a distinct childhood memory. This is helpful because it offers you some direction without interrupting the flow of writing. Just choose a prompt that will work, open your mind, and let go of the reigns.

Here are some quick prompts to get you going:

  • Think of a really random fact you know. Write a poem about that fact.
  • Find a photograph you love. Write about an object in the photo.
  • Write about something you’ve learned in the last year.
  • Write an essay outlining the peaks and valleys of your childhood.
  • Write a poem composed of 5 sets of couplets.


3,908 thoughts on “How to Use Writing Prompts to Get in the Flow

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