Writing Prompts (You Don’t Need Inspiration…You Just Need Time)

By Carol Lischau

Photo from pexels.com

This summer I taught a creative writing course to middle school students, and we
spent the majority of the time generating ideas for poetry and prose. The primary point I wanted them to walk away with after the course was this – 
you do not need to be inspired to write. You just need time. 

As long as you can set aside intentional time to write, something will happen. I promise. It might be terrible. It might be messy or chaotic or entirely illusory to yourself. But something will happen if you give yourself to the page and the hour.

But in order to help stave off some of the misery of staring at a cursor on a blank page, here are some of the generative writing prompts I gave to my students this summer to get them going. I hope they can energize you to push past that need for inspiration.  

Nonfiction Prose:

  • Begin writing a short piece in which every sentence begins with “I’m looking forward to…” and fill in each sentence with something specific, vivid, and concrete (use similes and metaphors).
  • What is a story your parent or a relative tells over and over? Why do you think they retell this story so often? What do they hope you gain from it?
  • What do you think of your name? Do you feel like it helps you understand your entity? Do you feel like your name is right (or not) for you? What does meditating on your name make you think of and feel?
  • Write a piece that begins with meditating on a particular food you find disgusting though other people seem to enjoy. Describe your experience eating this food. Describe how it feels to have differing thoughts/tastes from someone else.

Fiction Prose:

  • Create two characters that stumble into conflict with one another. Write a story entirely driven by their dialogue.
  • Go to a stock photos website and choose the first portrait of a person that halts you (for whatever reason). Who are they? What do they want/what do they need? What/Who is stopping them? 
  • Write a vivid scene of a landscape using only one of the five senses. 
  • Choose two of the following categories: [Green Things, Meals, Cold Things, Soft Things, Winter Objects, Summer Objects, Kitchen Items, Childhood Toys, Things That Fly, Gardens, Technology, Clothing, Desserts, Wild Animals]. Make a list of 5 items in each of the two categories you chose. Choose 1 item from each category. Write a story in which both of these items drives the plot.


  • Write a poem driven entirely by the sound of words.
  • Write a poem describing in vivid, specific detail your most ideal day (it can include anything).
  • Write a poem meditating on the best compliment someone has given you. Ask yourself why this is memorable.
  • Invent a new poetic form (limited by line length, syllables, number of lines, rhyme scheme, meter, subject matter, etc.). Name your poetic form. Write a poem within its limitations.

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