Writing Prompts for Uncertain Times

Sometimes, & especially in these uncertain & weird times, gleaning inspiration to write or create in general is extremely difficult. What has been getting me through is creating or researching prompts that help transport my worried brain into a place of writing/thinking about making. Here are a few for you to try, get your minds, fingers, imaginations out of quarantine & onto paper, canvas, or wherever else your art happens to happen.

  1. Write a not-elegy, for an elegy that has been written many times. Think: anti-elegy, resurrection poem, a poem in which you recover/revive the lost person/place/thing.
  2. Write a poem about something that you consider priceless & try to put a price on it. Alternatively, write something that engages an idea, thing, or person that might be considered societally priceless & center your piece around highlighting a price you’ve easily given it.
  3. How are inanimate objects that don’t have physical mothers born?  Think: Where do lights come from? What lives in a closet’s bloodline? How do tattoos take their first steps & who records them?
  4. Write/make an ode to something that is considered ugly, disgusting, or invaluable & let your language make it all the things that it is said not to be.
  5. Choose an object. Unravel it. Unravel it again. Unravel it again. When there feels like nothing else, unravel it again. What lives in the layers? What does it lose when you peel them back?
  6. Write/make an Ars Poetica with… some thing, place, or person that haunts you. Think: using a thing that haunts you to communicate your why & how of your work. As I write this prompt, I am thinking of my own Ars Poetica that I have been absolutely avoiding, an Ars Poetica with my dead baby.
  7. Take a whole day of listening in on other people’s conversations (for a quarantine version, spend the whole day calling random folks & seeing what conversations they strike up), write down anything that they say & break them into three categories. The categories are: mundane/normal, surprising, annoying/upsetting. With these lists write something that uses the majority of other people’s language (like a cento of your day/week/phone conversation with your mom/at Target, etc.), if you do end up including outside words use some sort of formatting tool to identify where your own input is happening.
  8. Think of a question you’ve always wanted to ask your parents or people who raised you, write what you think their answer would be. Ask them the question. Make something that weaves your answer & theirs together. See what happens. Ask them to ask you something back, have them write what they think you’ll say, repeat the process.
  9. Write something whose form mimics that of an everyday activity (braiding hair, kissing your lover, washing dishes, walking your dog, brushing your teeth) & try to make it so that the content doesn’t give a hint to what the form is shaped after.
  10. What something intangible that you can’t go a day without? Write something in which this intangible thing has a body, a voice, a head of hair, & does the day without you.

I hope at least one of these prompts were fruitful for you & would love to see submissions of anything that comes out of them. Stay safe!


Shaina, Poetry Editor


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