Creative writing prompts are a great tool we can use to explore and expand our writing, especially when it feels like we can only churn out the same old words and phrases time and time again.
So how do writing prompts work, and why should you consider using them in your writing?
Imagine your creative writing potential is a vast ocean, stretching off into the distance for as far as you can see. The problem is, you're merely paddling around at the shore, unable to go in any deeper than up to your ankles, while that ocean of possibility seems tantalisingly out of reach.
So you could wade out a little further, maybe even swim, and maybe you do this from time to time. But to really set sail on a voyage of writing discovery, you need a boat!
The problem isn't a lack of writing ability or a lack of ideas, or enthusiasm. The problem is taking the plunge and getting started on new writing adventures.
So, if you had a boat, you could push off from the shore in any direction you wish, sail as far as you wanted, even go around the world and back if that's what your heart desired. No more sitting at the shore gazing out in frustration and wondering if you'd ever write anything stimulating and rewarding again. You'll be too busy enjoying your sea adventures to worry about things like that!
So, back to your creative writing... The question is, how do you find a boat?
This is where creative writing prompts come in. A writing prompt gives you an initial direction to head in, and a strong launch from the shore. You have a specific idea in your mind to start with, which your creativity, once invited, will happily take over and explore in its own unique way.
But, hang on, if the prompt isn't your own idea, isn't that "cheating"?
This is a common concern and the simple answer is no. As soon as you set sail with the prompt, where you take it is completely up to you. After that initial push off, the sails and rudder are in your hands and you can use them to head in any direction you want to.
With writing prompts you don't then have someone on your shoulder (or in your boat!) giving you instructions about what to write, how many words to use, and which punctuation is most suitable. You're free to write however you want to write. The difference is, you've been given that initial boost that you've struggled to find on your own lately. Take it, use it, write the best you can write!