Has this ever happened to you?
You have finally carved out a few minutes to write but now that you have cleared that space, you realize that you have no idea where to start.
(Personally, I think this is a bit of a stress response because your writing time suddenly feels extra important but I’ll write about that on another Friday. Today, we’re going to mostly treat the symptom – a sudden lack of ideas.)
Okay, so you have your few minutes to write. You don’t want to risk opening a browser window and going down the rabbithole of searching for prompts. But, you also don’t want to just keep staring at a blank page.
Before you give up and start googling, give one of these analog suggestions a try.
After all, writing inspiration can come from anywhere!
A Kitchen Drawer
Stroll into your kitchen and pull open one of the drawers.
Have a quick look at the contents. Make a list if you want.
Let your mind wander a little into the associations you make with any of the items in the drawer.
When was the last time you used it?
What else could you use it for?
What would someone (who has never seen this item before) think it was used for?
Is someone else better or worse at using it than you?
What kind of conflict could someone have about any of the items in the drawer?
If you have already exhausted the possibilities in your kitchen, take a look out your window.
You could look for items of a specific colour or you could look to see who is out and about at this hour. You could look for things that are new. Or you could try to spot the oldest item.
Again ask yourself the question what could this be used for?
What else could it be used for?
Who might want this?
Who might want to prevent them from getting it
If you don’t still get paper flyers delivered to your house, then think back on the ones you used to get.
Think about who might be looking at those flyers and wanting the things within. Are they able to buy them? If not why not? How do they feel about their purchasing ability?
Or is it possible there is an item on sale that will finally let the observer complete their evil task? What might that task be?
The Bottom of Your Bag
If you carry a bag, take out the most common items from the top and then look at the bits and pieces that have accumulated in the bottom.
(If you don’t regularly carry a bag you could use your imagination to do the same exercise.)
What could all those bits and pieces add up to?
What could they tell someone about the person who is carrying them?
Do they reveal any secrets?
Could they be clues to solving a mystery?
Mix and Match Bookshelf
Stroll along in front of your bookshelf and pick out the book with the most red on the spine and the book with the most gold on the spine.
Combine words from the titles of both of those books and see where that leads you.
So perhaps you end up with the joy of dragon cooking. Or maybe you get the trials of creativity.
Now imagine that that is the title of a book in a story that you’re writing. Perhaps it’s the guidebook that the main character is using. What are they using it for? Will it be effective? How did they acquire it?
Prompt or Not
Perhaps by doing this exercise you have immediately identified a story that you want to write. (Or maybe you’ve realized you don’t want to do any foolish exercises like this.)
For me the beauty of writing/thinking prompts is not so much in where the prompt might force me to go, it’s in what my mind decides to do with it. (I don’t let prompts boss me around too much.) It’s kind of like when you can’t make a decision so you flip a coin and once the coin is in the air you know which way you want it to land
Either these prompts will inspire you to write about them, or they will encourage you to write about the exact opposite. Or, they will annoy you so much that you either decide to take a break from writing right now or you’ll write something just to spite the topic.
So, you will end up either having something to write or you will realize that it’s time to take a little break right now.
Either way you will have gotten to play around with ideas and that’s always good for your writerly brain.
PS – If you don’t use everything that you come up with today, perhaps you could keep an ideas list for the next time you need one.