My Love Affair with Writing Prompts.


I love writing prompts.

I taught myself how to write using them. It started with prompts from Tristine Rainier’s book,”The New Diary” then I found Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” and began filling notebook after notebook with writing practice.

I knew I had to write and not just read about how to write to, you know, actually be a writer. Prompts got me writing. They bypassed the the censor and let me just get directly to the writing. I didn’t have to think up what to write about.

Prompts are a springboard that let me dive into the deep end instead of lingering at the edge, dipping my toe in as I try to decide what exactly to write every single time I sit down to the blank page.

When I began writing fiction, I still used prompts only I wrote them from the POV of my characters. Sometimes nothing came of them except that I got words on a page (always a good thing). But often some new, crucial information was revealed about the character or plot. Those days felt magical.

This story published on literary began as an exercise in a class from a prompt using a photograph of a chair by the side of a house.

My finished novel-in-stories began as prompt from this black and white photo by Mary Ellen Mark:


Image found via NPR.


It’s not that I imagine the characters look like the girls in this photo. The energy between them, the juxtaposition of tween girls in a kiddie pool and the cigarette just intrigued me and led me to explore (for years) that energy that first sparked something in me.

While photographs work really for me (I keep a board on Pinterest) I’m also drawn to other types of prompts as well. Contributions to Post Secret can provide rich material. And I have written through every prompt in Judy Reeves’ “Writer’s book of Days” several times. I once wrote a short story based on something I overheard a man say on a cell phone while at the airport.

Prompts allow me to get back to that playfulness of writing that I had when I first started out. They allow me to get out of my head and into my subconscious where all the juicy things wait.

But mostly they just get me writing no matter what my mood or energy or anxieties. For that reason, prompts are priceless.


Wednesday Writing Prompt.

woman with mask

Image found via Pinterest.

She had been wearing it for so long that the mask had molded to the contours of her face. A thick veil between her and the world. Between who she pretended to be and who she really was. Between who she was and who she wanted to be. The mask felt safe. Everyone knew the mask. She knew the mask. It was familiar. It had been with her for so long that she forgot it wasn’t naturally a part of her. Then she remembered. And it began to feel completely unnatural. Foreign. So other. Her eyelids were closed on the mask. Her vision obstructed. Gutted. The day came when she was tired of the darkness. Tired of the feeling trapped behind the stale breath of the mask. But could it be removed? She was tentative at first, not wanted it to hurt. But she knew that at some point it would. It was inevitable. And she was okay with that. She had to be. And so she lifted it off and it pulled away from her in one complete piece. No longer a part of her. Only a reminder. A reminder to not hide. Ever again.


Wednesday Writing Prompt

open a book

Image found via Pinterest.


Opening the old book she found stuffed in the back of her closet, she new it contained magic. Every book does. It’s why we read. We are transported to other places, other times. We inhabit the lives of people like and unlike ourselves. Books expand our world.

But this book. This book she knew was different. Even the dust particles dancing in the air as she gently opened the pages contained magic.

She needed some magic. Desperately. Her life had become so…ordinary. So flat. She knew she sounded spoiled. There were way way worse problems going on in the world. She knew that. She also knew that she couldn’t go on like this. They couldn’t go on like this. This mild but consistent discontent thrumming just beneath the surface of their marriage. Nothing that she could point to and say, “That right there. Change that.”

No, it was more insidious than that. Because it wasn’t so easily identifiable, that made it easy to ignore. To pretend that everything was okay.

She felt it was something deeper. Something she had to dig for which is what lead her to cleaning out this closet. That whole creating space for the new bullshit that she reads about so often. Clearing the clutter from her life.

The book in her hands is old. She doesn’t remember buying it. Or reading it. When she opens the cover, her name appears in the corner. As she is watching it appears. Right before her eyes. Written by an invisible hand.

April Greene.

She glances around her. Why? Who or what does she expect to see? Well, she knows who but she also knows that is impossible. She is alone in the closet. Or so it appears.

Wednesday Writing Prompt


Pinned from

I’ve decided to post a prompt each Wednesday and my raw, unedited response to it. Just for fun…

Trees fade into a ethereal tunnel, the fog becoming more dense until it resembles white light.There, at the end of the path, just before the light of fog stands a silhouette. Magical, poised, majestic. I didn’t expect to encounter anyone or anything on this walk. On this path so deserted. I feel I am the only one in the world, surrounded by the embrace of trees towering over me, standing guard as I make my deep into the unknown. The trees have let go of their leaves. They understand the importance of letting the dead things go, the importance of composting that which no longer serves you, creating something new and lush. But it takes this time of darkness, of retreat deep into the self. This time is essential. Though it is stark and harsh it is also warm and comforting. I realize I have stopped walking and am standing still, as still as the winter stag in front of me. Our eyes lock and neither of us are poised to run. The stag beckons me ahead, letting me know it is okay to continue on this path. That it is essential that I continue, so I lift a foot and take a step. Then another. and another…deep into the fog until I can no longer see even my hand in front of me.

If you are inspiried by this image feel free to share a response in the comments or share a link to your blog. I’d love to read what you write!