WMBTSG Day Eight (Comment to this post to qualify for the drawing)

Welcome to day eight of the annual Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway. One lucky winner will walk away with The Write-brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer.

With The Write-Brain Workbook, you’ll never have to face a blank page again. This one-of-a-kind guide provides a full year of writing excercises and games designed to get thoughts brewing and the pen moving across the page. It:

  • Provides 366 10-minute excercises to build momentum and turn on the right side of the brain
  • Helps you generate work by painlessly leading you into new writing every day
  • Stimulates creativity with a stunning 4-color package and easy-to-approach prompt
  • Bonnie Neubauer is the author of The Write-Brain Workbook, 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing, and the forthcoming follow-up, Take Ten, coming out in 2009. She is also the creator of Story Spinner, a hand held wheel that generates millions of creative writing exercises. Visit her website, www.BonnieNeubauer.com, and click on Story Spinner Online and you will have at your fingertips, gazillions of free writing exercises whenever you want (or need) one.


    Today’s question: Do you incorporate the use of prompts or exercises as a regular part of your writing practice? If so, how? And if not, why not? Think first, you might mistakenly overlook some of the tricks you’ve developed over the years to prime your writing pump. If you have a trusty prompt or exercise, you’d like to share with us. Feel free!

    If this is your first post in the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

    Post comment until midnight on September 8th to enter today’s drawing.


    38 Responses to “WMBTSG Day Eight (Comment to this post to qualify for the drawing)”

    1. 1 Teresa Hall September 8, 2008 at 6:12 am

      I like to use writing prompts when I am working on my creative writing projects. For some reason, I have never used them when I am doing commercial freelance writing. I don’t have a good reason why not. Somehow they have just seemed more suited to creative writing. So, in the spirit of trying new things to move forward with my business, I will incorporate using writing prompts into my daily routine. I look forward to reading comments here to find out where all of you get your prompts from. Onward and upward!

    2. 2 Elizabeth M. September 8, 2008 at 6:24 am

      I don’t use writing exercises because I’ve never thought to do that. It’s funny because I have used prompts for my kids to help encourage their writing in their summer journals but I never once thought that it would be a good idea for me. I love the idea and I think I’m going to try it. I think it would really help me get ideas flowing smoothly and perhaps help with using new and more colorful words more often.

    3. 3 Meryl K. Evans September 8, 2008 at 6:29 am

      I don’t incorporate exercises as part of my writing because my schedule doesn’t have room for it. I need to pick an exercise and make it a habit. The problem is finding that one exercise that I should learn and use on a regular basis. Trying to learn a new way takes time and as a writer mama… I lack the time for that as priorities rest elsewhere.

    4. 4 Jaymie September 8, 2008 at 6:42 am

      No I don’t. I probably should. I only write when an “idea” comes to me and would likely do more writing if I would use some prompts and exercises. I have gotten books from the library, and have written the prompts down so I could have them for later, and then never did anything with them….

    5. 5 Angie Goodloe September 8, 2008 at 6:56 am

      I like to read at night. I may read a novel, magazine, or how to books. After reading at night I may wake up in the morning with a great idea of my own or a new spin on an idea I found out of one of the books or articles that I read.
      Since I write a lot about plants, I will go for a nature hike, the plants I take pictures of or harvest will then inspire my next article.
      Recently I started reading Pen On Fire by Barbara Demarco-Barrett This book has been very inspiring, after reading this book I am considering starting a writing group in my area.

    6. 6 Cat September 8, 2008 at 8:11 am

      I use writing prompts from books like The Artist’s Way and Writing Down the Bones on a nearly daily basis, just to get me going. It’s pretty much a habit for me now. I’ll begin with one of these prompts and write for 10-15 minutes, as a sort of warm-up to other work. If I have a day that’s too busy for much sit-down writing, I use these “practice” exercises in a notebook that I keep with me–very handy for traffic, carpool, etc. It feels good to get a little writing done every day, and using prompts, I never have the excuse of no time or no ideas.

    7. 7 anniegirl1138 September 8, 2008 at 8:12 am

      The only time I use prompts is during writing group activities. When I was teaching, I would give prompts as options to my students though more often than not they didn’t need them.

      I am starting my memoir this fall. It will be my NaNoWriMo project in November and I will be using a book on memoir writing by Emma May Robinson as my prompt. I had picked up her book on a whim at the library and found her ideas for organization interesting and think I will use them as my outline. A starting point anyway, as I have been really working on the memoir since I started blogging shortly after my first husband’s death in 2006.

      The only prompts that work well for me are photos/drawings. I really dislike having words given to me via or even the basis for an idea. My current novel came from a picture prompt from the Chris Van Alsburgh book, The Mystery of Harris Burdick. I love the illustrations. I used them with my middle school students often – as did many of the teachers I worked with over the years.

      Prompts for me now tend to be news articles and often conversations with my husband. My problem now it how to get all my ideas down before they are lost more than getting started in the first place.

    8. 8 Mary Jo C. September 8, 2008 at 8:22 am

      YES!!!! I love writing prompts, the more the better. I use one of my favorite books: Writer’s Book of Days, which has a prompt for every day of the year, including prompts in the sidebars and embedded in the chapter text. These are more one line prompts, like a springboard.

      Another I use is the book “What If?” where each chapter focuses on a learning opportunity for your writing, giving prompts, and student examples and how it will help your writing.

      For now, I flip through the notes I take daily, ideas that spring in my head while showering or driving or picked from my journal for any non fiction topics I’d like to pursue.

    9. 9 Cara September 8, 2008 at 8:55 am

      Two years ago I joined a writing group for women cancer survivors at my local hospital, based on the Amherst Writers and Artists methodology, and each session we do two or three short writings in response to prompts. The prompts can be an object or photo, a poem, or a guided imagery, but I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to come up with, even with the simplest prompts (and a time limit!).

      At home, when I get stuck, I sometimes just create long lists of “sound bites” and these make great story starters later on. When the creative muse strikes though, I find I don’t need prompts at all, just my notebook or keyboard, and a little quiet.

    10. 10 marnini September 8, 2008 at 9:04 am

      Although I love writing prompts, I have to say I rarely use them. I find that inspiration hits me fairly easy.

      My favorite thing to do is look at something very random and think of a story for it. It gets your mind out of the box.

      I do however, love the Writer’s Digest writing contests where they give you a prompt. I am determined to win that contest one of these days.


    11. 11 Abbey September 8, 2008 at 9:16 am

      I have never used writing prompts, but this post has me curious! I write non-fiction exclusively, so most of my ideas come to me at random times throughout the day and I write them down to chew on later. I’m sure I would find more success or at least come up with more ideas if I added some structure to the process. I’m going to have to explore this topic further!

    12. 12 cookerycontent September 8, 2008 at 9:49 am

      I use a spiral notebook titled “Futures” to record story ideas, thoughts, events and observations. It serves as my own writing prompt when I’m able to begin a new piece of work. Every so often, I need to open that notebook to prompt myself.

      Cathleen Rountree wrote a beautiful book several years ago in “The Writer’s Mentor.” Through each chapter, she suggests creative ways to “put passion on paper.”

      “Writer Mama” is loaded with writing prompts and exercises. Subliminally and absolutely, I incorporate prompts (more than exercises) into writing.
      –Mary Ann

    13. 13 Cathy September 8, 2008 at 9:51 am

      I suppose you could say I use prompts…I’ll write an essay or article in response to a call out. If I see a topic that generates an idea, I’m off and running. But I’ve found that if I don’t have a thought come to me at first read, I’ll work too hard to come up with an idea and the writing will be so-so.

      I also keep a notepad nearby when I’m reading trivia stuff or the paper. Often, an interesting fact about one thing will lead my brain to wonder about something else. And that’s kind of like a prompt, too.

    14. 14 Wendy September 8, 2008 at 10:01 am

      I started using prompts in fiction writing classes and have started using them just to jumpstart all of my writing now. Prompts get rid of some of the clutter and tightness and the writing flows better when I do prompts regularly. I have started using SoulCollage cards as my prompts and teaching women in my writing group to do it with me. It has been amazingly effective, especially for the poets and fiction writers, but for me as it helps me to be more confident and get out of my own way.

    15. 15 Heather September 8, 2008 at 10:16 am

      I do use prompts in my writing on occasion. Everyday things will trigger wonderful scenes for a book that I am slowly writing. Things that happen in my daily life will trigger the urge to write an article or letter to the editor.

    16. 16 Judy September 8, 2008 at 10:32 am

      I do use prompts as warm ups or if I can’t find time to sit and write for the day. Sometimes it’s an object – say a photograph. More often than not, it’s something chosen at random out of The Pocket Muse or The 3 A.M. Epiphany. Again, – it’s me and the timer, ten to fifteen minutes. It’s fun and crazy to see what happens.

    17. 17 krysk September 8, 2008 at 10:55 am

      I don’t use writing prompts for myself, although when I taught writing to elementary school students I regularly used either books/poems/pictures/or big ideas for their writing prompts. I don’t know why I don’t do the same in my own writing. I guess part of me feels like it is “cheating”.

      I really should use more writing prompts – as the mother of two young children it seems to take longer and longer to warm up my brain! I have started doing my morning writing again – I have focused so strongly on my “professional” writing that I have lost touch with that part of my creative self that could just sit down and write, as opposed to worrying about publication all the time. Writing prompts could be in my near future!

    18. 18 Kisatrtle September 8, 2008 at 11:09 am

      After taking a wonderful creative writing class I use prompts more often than ever before. One fun one we did in the class included cards with nouns on them, verbs on them and random objects on them. For example, a bear, dancing, teapot. Then you had to write a story using those words and they couldn’t all appear in the first sentence….LOL I loved the exercise and it was even more fun when everyone participating had the same prompt but yet not one of us wrote the same story. Gotta love that.

    19. 19 Celestial Goldfish September 8, 2008 at 11:16 am

      I have used writing prompts. I’m part of a community on LiveJournal called nanoljers, and word and picture prompts are posted several times a week. Some of them also involve a time challenge. I also have “The Writer’s Idea Book” and have used it on a few occasions to force me to write something.

      I’ve had a few good stories emerge from prompts, but most of what I wrote was garbage, written just for the sake of writing. Still, they are a useful tool and force me out of my comfort zone.

    20. 20 Cheryl M September 8, 2008 at 11:20 am

      I occasionally use writing prompts. I especially like the once-a-month writing prompt posted at literarymama.com where you can send in your writing for feedback. I find that fun to look at even when it is off-topic for me, although I don’t think they had one for this month.

      I have read a few books with writing prompts and my favorite was in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It was to write about a school lunch. It sounds strange, but it was amazing what I could remember about the lunches I used to bring in elementary school.

    21. 21 Donn McDine September 8, 2008 at 11:34 am

      I use writing prompts frequently. It helps me keep my writing senses tuned and many times I write into a direction that I never thought I would. In one of my critique groups we regularly send a prompt to the group. It always amazes the differences in writing that one prompt can bring. I also use the writing prompts in Writer’s Digest even though I don’t normally send them back in. I use it as a warm up exercise most of the time.

    22. 22 Richelle September 8, 2008 at 11:41 am

      I have used them in the past. They can be very helpful for opening up ideas/going in new directions, but since I’m pretty directed right now, I just haven’t found them necessary. If I’m having any trouble getting into a piece I’m working on, I take 10-20 minutes to edit what I’ve already got, which is all it usually takes to get me excited and get me going. Honestly, I would probably use them more if I wasn’t always on a deadline!

    23. 23 Sarah September 8, 2008 at 11:48 am

      I haven’t used writing prompts, but I think it would be to my benefit to start. To ‘spark’ my current writing, I usually do a lot of talking out loud — my dog really appreciates my train of thought…. I try to make connections, descriptions, and relevance out of every day events and/ or objects. Sometimes I come up with a ridiculous stretch, and sometimes I make a really deep observation!

    24. 24 Beth@MommyComeLately September 8, 2008 at 1:02 pm

      The best prompt for my nonfiction writing is a deadline.
      If that fails me, the next best thing, is my writers group brainstorming the article with me–asking me questions until I discover the main idea for my article.
      I’ve just wandered over to “the dark side” and joined a fiction writing group. I’m discovering some prompts there, like asking my main character, “Okay, what happens next?” Or, asking myself, “What’s the worse thing that can happen?”–and then writing the scene that way.

    25. 25 Jenni September 8, 2008 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you for telling us to “think” first. My first internal response was, “No, I don’t use prompts often”, with accompanying guilt. But then I remembered a little trick I’ve been using when I force myself to sit down and write and then find myself at a loss.

      I think of one word, any word, and then generate a string of words or phrases that are somehow related. An example from one of my “daily writes”:

      Sign off
      Test drive
      Climb inside
      Hop aboard
      Deep reward
      Swim ashore

      Pure ridiculousness, I know. But it seems to be just the kick-start I need to begin writing real thoughts.

    26. 26 LauraP September 8, 2008 at 1:21 pm

      I used to use a writing prompt recommended to me by writer Mary Sojourner: Write for twenty minutes straight, no matter what. And if you run out of things to write, she said, just write something like “Mary is mean because she’s making me write and my hand hurts” over and over until your brain kicks back in.

      I haven’t used that one in a while, mostly because I have so little time to write now that I’m a mama that I don’t want to “waste” time doing something that doesn’t pay!

      But when I do find my mind wandering when I’m trying work, I drag out the kitchen timer. I’ll let myself surf the web or check email for five minutes. When the timer beeps, I set it again for ten minutes to work.

      Usually by minute 8 or so, I’m absorbed in what I’m doing and can turn off the timer and keep working away.

      All right! Time’s up!

    27. 27 Laura September 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm

      When I write at home, I almost always begin with a writing exercise, either from a book, or simply ‘free-writing’. To me, this is like stretching before beginning to jog. It warms me up. The exercise gets my mind going, and my hand loose.

      When I am writing somewhere else, like at Barnes & Noble, then I don’t do a writing exercise. For some reason, simply being somewhere else, I’m quickly able to slip into writing mode.

    28. 28 Elizabeth September 8, 2008 at 3:03 pm

      I used to only use regular writing prompts for my creative work. I would do them to warm up, especially if I didn’t have an on-going project. They helped to bring a different dimension to my writing, so I enjoyed using them, especially the prompt to write a letter to one of your characters.

      For my freelance work, I’m generally on deadline, so I don’t always do a written prompt, but I might do mental prompts (unfinished sentences)…generally when I’m bathing the kids.

      I’ve started creativity coach training and I will be using a lot more prompts in my work, as well as for my clients. It definitely helps keep the pump primed.

    29. 29 Amber September 8, 2008 at 4:31 pm

      I frequently use writing prompts to warm up the brain when I have a long writing session ahead of me. They loosen up my creativity.

      In May I participated in a challenge using writing prompts to write a short story a day. I had 31 complete stories and three incomplete ones to finish later. One of my stories was recently published in The Shine Journal and if it weren’t for the prompt on write about “The Monster Under The Bed” I wouldn’t have thought to write the story.

    30. 30 Heidi September 8, 2008 at 4:43 pm

      I don’t use specific exercises to warm up, but I organize my day in such a way that early work warms me up for the heavy hitting during naptime. I start before my son wakes in the morning, using mindmapping or “bubbling” to expand on ideas from my “fun topics to pursue” list. That expands my thinking, helps me link ideas, and gets the energy flowing. After that, I blog away. Blogging is less pressured than writing queries or essays, and it gets me emotionally invested in work for the day. I love creating the blog posts and watching them add up as a body of thoughts and insights. During nap time I focus on queries, drafts, and editing. Since queries and essays are most demanding, I hit them first. To beat the urge to give up when the writing is hard, I set small goals such as “I’m going to write for 10 mins.” Usually, by the time my 10 mins are up, I’m in the groove. If not, I table it and come back to it when my energy is up.

    31. 31 Renee September 8, 2008 at 7:18 pm

      I wish I used writing prompts more! When I was doing “The Artist’s Way” program several years ago, I did complete the morning pages every day. Like another poster mentioned, I also enjoy reading the Writer’s Digest prompts and the winner’s submission each month. I’ll venture out and say that my excuse is that I write non-fiction most of the time now, so I’m usually under a deadline and just try to get the work turned in with all “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. I do think I would benefit from more prompts and “warming up” writing, even for these non-fiction projects. Sometimes my introductory paragraphs and conclusions are so bland, they could use some more creativity and a little spice!

    32. 32 Julie P September 8, 2008 at 7:18 pm

      I sure do. Thinking back to the beginning of my writing, it was all about writing prompts, because I started writing in school. Daily we responded to writing prompts in our journals, our essay responses, even in book reports.

      When teaching elementary school, I invested in a few writing prompt suggestion books, so that I would never be lacking a quote or question to ask my students to respond. I still utilize those same resources when I’m stuck.

      And now, in my day-to-day writing, prompts lie all around me. I’m prompted by my children’s, husband’s and community’s antics and ideas. I’m prompted by products and their uses. I’m prompted by the ideas I learn of from others. Even a simple overheard conversation in the locker room becomes a writing prompt. So much that I hear around me leads me to a discussion in my mind that simply must be written.

      And should I be at a loss for words or in need of a topic, the internet provides a massive amount of prompts. Searching a news page or a blog easily leads to ideas to comment on, and often segue from.

    33. 33 PeggyD. September 8, 2008 at 7:40 pm

      I haven’t been using prompts, but intend to for practice exercises. (As soon as I find a bit more time.) I learned what they were this summer at the Willamette Writers conference, as well as great exercises for writing to inspire creativity and improve your writing skills. It has been educational and interesting reading the previous responses to this blog. Great ideas!

    34. 34 karen September 8, 2008 at 8:07 pm

      My first instinct was no. But when I pour more thought into the question, I use other writers as prompts. I know when I’ve got a good book or essay in my hands because I am constantly breaking to write some thoughts or reel off something someone has inspired. I do occassionally use prompts when I finally have some time to sit down at the computer at night and absolutely comes to mind (which is so frustrating, because I look forward to that time all day!). Then, prompts come in handy to get the keys rocking.

    35. 35 Erin Maher September 8, 2008 at 8:29 pm

      When I’m drawing blanks, I just start writing down “I am about to come up with a terrific idea for [insert topic here] and it is going to involve … ” Basically, a pro-active and positive ramble. Sometimes, just the action of getting my hands moving is what I needed to kick my brain into gear. I also like writing joke resumes and cover letters, saying true things that I would never admit in a place like that. Generally, when nothing comes to mind, it’s because I’m bored, so I do something fun to shift my mood. Being infused with enthusiasm and energy always infuses me with ideas.

    36. 36 LaNeta Crighton September 9, 2008 at 4:51 am

      I’m new to this business of writing for pay, so I find prompts very helpful. Anything that gets me started is beneficial, even if I stray from the original idea. Sometimes a prompt can lead you in an interesting direction and trigger a whole new idea. I’m currently taking Christina’s class “Writing and Publishing the Small Stuff,” and notice many of the questions she asks are actually writing prompts. I’m all for anything that sparks an idea!

    1. 1 WMBTSG Drawing Day Eight: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 9, 2008 at 9:08 pm
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