6 Writing Prompts to Overcome Writer’s Block

Amy Flynn

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?

Favorite Quotes

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.”

Book Giveaway

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!

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Myrna Foster
Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.

43 thoughts on “6 Writing Prompts to Overcome Writer’s Block”

  1. I like the people watching prompt as I believe we naturally do this all the time. We judge people by what they look like, what they say. ]

  2. I honestly like the people watching one, though it is hard now a days. I like making stories about my chickens though, so I might go watch them!

  3. Prompt #4, I've never thought to take one of my childhood memories and create a story out of it! Weird! This is going to be fun.

    1. I did it subconsciously for a long time. Then recently was given a contest prompt that made it REALLY obvious I had to pull from childhood. It was an enlightening experience!

  4. I’m going to start with finding invisible gorillas. Then, I’m going to try constraining myself. Great article/video. Thanks!

  5. Suzan Hendrickson

    Great ideas! The two random objects sounds fun to me, I'll give it a try today. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for sharing Brenda! My critique group and I will occasionally do fun exercises like these when we've found ourselves in a frustrated place.

  6. I had a wonderful childhood, so I'm going to concentrate on dragging out some childhood memories and exploring all the feelings I had as a shy and very dramatic child!

    1. Shy is my much-leaned-on experience from childhood too. Sometimes I surprise myself when I really push though.

  7. I liked looking at two objects prompt and writing with a constraints. I will try writing a story in six words with my students. I have tried it once, and will try it again. Thank you for the great creativity tips.

  8. Actually, I like all of the prompts, but I think my first try will be to people watch. I love watching people but especially children. They're not self conscious and are just themselves and could do almost anything. Great prompts!

  9. Loved this, thank you!
    The one I'm most excited about trying is Prompt #5: Constrain Yourself.
    I kinda want to try writing a story in 6 words!

  10. I love the idea of changing the aesthetics. We've actually been doing this on an assignment through Illustration 1 and it's helping me to flesh out a story that I'd begun years ago but got stuck!

    Thanks for this great post!

  11. I people watch all the time! I've been in the candy business forever, and see a huge range of people, a lot of whom are complete strangers to me. It's fun to try to imagine their story.
    I really love the idea of taking a childhood memory and writing about it from a different perspective. Who knows, it might even shed some insight into something that was going on that I didn't realize as a child!

  12. I am going to try all of these but as I’m brainstorming for some ideas for portfolio illustrations, I’m going to have fun with the two random object prompt to start!

  13. Oh, I think I'll try to two random objects one! As a former comedian, I'm hyper aware of my surroundings but finding common threads was always a fun and interesting part. I didn't think to apply it in this way!

  14. I'm going to compare two completely different objects. And hope to win a book 🙂 Thanks for prompts; will share them with my writing circle.

  15. Pingback: Check Out These Writing Prompts - noseinabookpublishing.com

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