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Write Right Now (and Rev the Engine)


New year, fresh pens. Looking for a starting point, or some inspiration for your work? We’ve assembled a list of prompts for creative encouragement.

The following prompts should be broad enough to apply to all writing genres. Non-writing mediums can make use of them, too: just swap out the word “write” for “draw” or “choreograph” or whatever is your generative verb of choice. We recommend not overthinking it. Set your phone to airplane mode, silence your inner editor, and go!

  • Find a line or quote that you loveor pull one from somewhere random. Write each word of the quote down one margin of the page, either left or right. Let these words begin or end each line, in a poem or prose piece.
  • Write an opening scene in which a character arrives home to find an unexpected guest waiting.
  • Cut words from old magazines or books and create a collage. Fill in with your own words or rely on the cut-outs. Old trade magazines or highly particular (peculiar) nonfiction from thrift stores can make for great creations. You could even cut out only words that begin with certain letters or have a certain number of syllables.
  • A shrewdness of apes, a bellowing of bullfinches, a destruction of cats. Consult this list of terms of venery until you find one that inspires you, and write whatever comes to mind.
  • Describe an experience in which your expectations of a person, place, or thing turned out to be vastly different from the reality.
  • Transform your experience of reading the news. Look for two intriguing headlines—with odd phrasing or surprising subject matter—that are quite different and find a way to bring them together in prose or a poem. Include them exactly as they are, or let the themes guide you.
  • Use Google Scholar, modify for ‘Case Law,’ and type in a plant or animal. Use the legal language or an exact case (or several!) to inspire your writing. Emotions (anger, jealousy) can also yield interesting results.
  • Recall a time when, as a child, you saw a teacher, or other non-parent adult, behaving badly. Write prose about what happened, how you felt at the time, and any way in which you might feel differently about it now. You could also allow the memory to inspire a verse or prose poem.
  • Using SFMOMA’s Send Me tool, request three different works of artan object, an emotion, and an adjective. Write a poem or short piece of prose incorporating all three of the results.
  • Write a scene or poem featuring dialogue on an ordinary domestic topic, against the backdrop of a major weather or climate event (e.g., a couple chats about a grocery list as a massive rainstorm batters the kitchen windows behind them).

Like what you’ve written? Put it away for a week, then revisit, and revise, revise, revise. When it’s ready to go, submit. If you have feedback, or ideas for prompts, please get in touch.

[Art: ‘Highway, Field, Canyon (Winter)’ by Submittable team member Ben Bloch