6 Writing Prompts to Overcome Writer’s Block
Do you ever struggle with writer’s block?
We all have a limited amount of time to work on our writing projects, so it can be super frustrating to feel stuck when you’re ready to work. Amy Flynn, the Chief Operating Officer for Storyteller Academy, is also a children’s book writer, so she made a YouTube video to share six prompts she uses to build her creativity and overcome writer’s block.
Prompt #1: Take two random objects and list out what they have in common.
This first prompt reminds me of how Jim Averbeck said he came up with the idea for Trevor, his picture book about a canary who befriends a lemon. As you look at the things that two random objects have in common, you just might find an irresistible idea. While you’re brainstorming, see if you can connect with a kid-relatable problem or emotion.
Prompt #2: People watch.
As you’re watching people, come up with backstories for them. How many imaginary lives can you create for one person?
Ask yourself questions about them. Questions that start with “What if” can lead to interesting stories. Why are they doing what they’re doing? What are the problems they need to overcome? Maybe one of them has writer’s block too!
Prompt #3: Find “invisible gorillas.”
Harvard conducted a selective attention test awhile back where they had participants watch a video and told them to focus on counting the number of basketball passes between players. If you want to see the test, you can take it here. But if you’ve been paying attention, you have an unfair advantage.
While the players were passing the basketball, a person in a gorilla suit waltzed through the game, banging on his chest. 50% of participants didn’t see the gorilla!
Amy found the selective attention test in Tanner Christensen’s The Creativity Challenge. In the book, challenge number 13 is “Find “invisible gorillas.”
Take a few minutes to stop and use your senses to study your surroundings. Find 10 things that you didn't notice until that very moment.
Prompt #4: Recall an important memory from your childhood.
Ask yourself some questions about your memory. When we remember something for a long time, there’s usually a strong emotion attached to it. What was that emotion? Where did it come from? As Amy suggested, play with it and see if you want to write about it from a different perspective.
You can change anything you want about this memory, which can be a lot of fun. If you want to add a dinosaur, you can do that. If you want to turn everyone into chickens, you can do that too. The end story may not look anything like your original memory, BUT if you capture the emotion you felt as a child, you could end up with something amazing.
Prompt #5: Constrain yourself.
Can you write a story in six words?
Corey Rosen Schwartz has written a lot of her picture books as a string of limericks. That isn’t easy to maintain for a whole story. I’ve tried it. All rhyming picture book writers have to constrain themselves in some way.
How do you want to challenge yourself?
Prompt #6: Change the aesthetics.
Amy also borrowed this prompt from The Creativity Challenge.
Imagine what would happen if something familiar to you (your pen, your car, your fingers, etc.) changed aesthetically (bigger, smaller, different shape). What can you do with this difference?
I want to close with two quotes from Amy that really resonated with me:
“Don't wait for your creative time. Make it a daily practice to find creativity and inspiration in every moment. I am known in my critique groups for the phrase, “There's a story there.” It might be an image, or an incident, or a phrase that I come across and BAM I'm inspired. There's a story there.”
“Don't force it. If a story isn't coming, it’s not coming. Do something else. Write one of these prompts. Get your creative juices flowing and then just direct that toward your work in progress.
So, our big takeaway here is: writing prompts are great, but you've got to foster creativity as a habit. You need to see inspiration all around you.”
So, how are you going to find your story? Share in a comment which one of these prompts you’re going to try, and I’ll enter you to win a paperback of The Creativity Challenge, by Tanner Christensen. This giveaway will close on March 18 at midnight, PDT. You can share this post on social media for extra entries. Just post a link (or let me know) in a comment below.
I’m trying out the first prompt tonight. Thanks for reading!