Today’s post is adapted from The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day by Lisa Tener (@LisaTener).
During my senior year of college, I discovered writing prompts. They changed my life forever. Writing prompts freed me from the pressure to create from scratch by providing me with something to respond to.
I hope the following prompts make it easy for you to be creative; and to allow you to let go of any worrying you may do over writing perfectly or writing for an audience. Write for you. Experience the joy of writing daily, as you hone your craft as well as your writing habit.
1. Permission to be bold
Sometimes, I imagine I hear my ancestors knocking on the door asking me to tell their stories. In her youth, my Grandma Stella immigrated to New York from the Russian Pale (though she insisted she was born in Connecticut, where I’m not even sure she ever set foot). Stella sang in nightclubs from her teens and into her seventies and the intense emotion in her singing made me uncomfortable. My Grandma Lily shared stories of growing up in Vienna: the manor farm her uncle managed where her mother sent her to “fatten up” and where she learned to love animals; the ballroom dancing lessons with her cousins; music nights in Vienna where the young people gathered in her home, playing their instruments and singing songs late into the night, and then spilling into the cafes in the wee hours of the morning.
Up to now, I have not been able to find the courage to write about any of my ancestors. I’m afraid I won’t do their stories justice and, truthfully, the journey scares me, too. What secrets might I uncover about my family’s past? A hundred times bolder, maybe I’d just dive in.
List five things you might write about if you were 100 times bolder. Pick one and explore. Go bold. Get a little crazy! You have permission! This video reveals what some of my students and colleagues would write about if they were 100 times bolder.
2. How I got screwed out of inner peace
My husband once joked about writing a book called How I Got Screwed Out of Inner Peace. We laughed at the irony of the title: it captures the ways we fail to take responsibility for our own peace or work so hard at improving ourselves that peace escapes us. As a former—and sometimes current—self-help junkie, who is always trying to become the new and improved version of me, I find personal growth can support us on our spiritual path, but it can also take us in circles when we try to reach an impossible destination and never accept the beauty of who we are.
List ten ways that you try to grow or improve yourself. Then, pick one of your self-help methods and write about it. Choose the hardest thing. Or the most ridiculous one. Or the one that most inspires you in the moment. Or write about them all! In what ways has self-improvement supported you? In what ways has it become a trap? Do you over do it? Are you cheating yourself out of inner peace by taking on too much?
3. If my house could talk
My living room is the perfect place to read a book or write one. Everyone hangs out there and I love when we’re all reading, feet overlapping on the couch. However, we have a galley kitchen; so we also dine, stretch, and even game in the large living room. And when someone’s gaming there, using his outside voice, I skedaddle.
What is your favorite (or least favorite) room in your house? Imagine a bizarre or humorous thing happening in that room before you entered it and write about it. Or imagine if the room could talk; what stories would it tell? This prompt will help you develop the skill of compelling plot development. Not writing a narrative? That’s okay. It also helps with scene setting for writing an anecdote.
Note from Jane: If you enjoyed these prompts, be sure to check out The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day by Lisa Tener (@LisaTener).
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book coach, author and creativity catalyst. Her clients have signed 5- and 6-figure publishing deals with dozens of publishers, including Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, and have appeared in national media such as Today, Good Morning America, Oprah, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. An MIT graduate, Lisa teaches on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s women in healthcare leadership and publishing courses. She’s the author of The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. Learn more at her website lisatener.com.