One short (yet so, so long) year ago I wrote a blog post on thetrainridehome.com about turning 27. The United States had begun quarantine, and I was scared. Everyone was scared, to a certain degree. I was laid off from my new job that I was barely getting the hang of, and my little family consisting of my husband, my dog, and myself were in a new state away, far from family, with no income, trying to keep it together.
While you’re staying indoors and relying on Netflix, social media, walks, and baking bread to fill your time, try out these creative writing prompts to let your imagination loose.
It’s been a long year, and we’re only 4 months in. Lucky for us, books exist! Here are the ones I love, so you might love them too.
Take some of these ideas, add your own into the mix, and pull them at random, doing one after the other. Don’t give yourselves too much time to think between each one – just DO. The whole experience made us feel like kids again, forgetting about the weight of the world. We hope you have as much fun as we did.
Many of us share a similar dream of writing a book; there’s a dignity and feeling of immortality in publishing your work, whether it’s a memoir, an informational text, or a novel. I’ve been setting my focus on writing a fiction story, a task which seems overwhelming and impossible without breaking it down.
Whether you are dating long distance, quarantined in different houses, on a long road trip, or simply want some conversation starters to get to know your significant other better, these are for you.
On March 2nd, I continued my birthday tradition of recording bits of knowledge I’ve collected during the year. Now, on March 25th, a few things in the world have changed. The lessons I previously wrote seemed so far away from what I’m learning and experiencing now.
1. I woke up, began my morning routine per usual. While grabbing for a mug to pour myself a cup of coffee, I noticed my favorite teal mug with the etched mountain landscape is now a lavender color. Looking around, I noticed more details of my home had been altered, like __________________
I plopped on the couch, a looming stack of cut-up magazines on the coffee table in front of me. Time to find out what inspires me.
Sitting down with my journal and deeply thinking about it, I can trace back through a handful of versions of myself. The free spirit Scotland traveler constantly in a green knit hat and scuffed leather boots. The stressed teacher living in the tiny Portland apartment with a guinea pig. The new wife in Germany who poured energy into friendships, reading, art. Looking back through the layers of my life, I realize that I reinvented myself every year, with new jobs, passion-projects, food tastes. A small army of Emmas stand behind me, varying styles all lined up.
Rejection is a hard pill to swallow, and is seemingly a rite of passage as an adult. We’re forced to take it with a smile and carry on because that’s what we’re expected to do. Don’t make a fuss. I agree with this to a point. Perspective is everything. In the future, when I’m settled with a steady income, I’ll look back on this time and appreciate the rejections. They led me in the right direction. But, to someone who is struggling, that concept is hard to be fully grasped.
Let’s get right into it. I loved these books, and you might too.
On a Thursday in late December we packed everything we could fit into our red Honda, including a special spot for our dog, and started the 16 hour drive to North Carolina. The first couple hours we were focused – silent. Listening to our podcasts and navigating through Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. The traffic going around the city was clogged, drastically slowing our quick pace less than 2 hours into the trip. At this point, Pebbles the dog also chose that he was over his special seat in the back, and squeezed his way onto my lap, where he would stay most of the journey.
As time passes and carries us higher into adulthood, the specifics of childhood grow fuzzy. What remains is the feeling of being in our brown home with red doors, with my mother, father, and sister. I remember it as if I am looking into a snow globe, a static moment of my life halted in time, only the warm, vague feeling lasting.
The year 2000 brought Y2K panic, the Sydney summer Olympics, and so on. But, most importantly to me, the year 2000 caused us to create the family time capsule, to be opened in the year 2020.
We are standing on the edge of our life. We have been for the past 3 weeks. What people don’t tell you about making a big life change is that at first it’s exciting. What we didn’t know was how mentally difficult the state of limbo can be.
And just like that, a decade has passed. When I think about the year 2020 approaching, I think back to New Year’s Eve, 2000. My family decided to put together a time capsule, to be opened in exactly 20 years. In my 6 year old mind, this concept was incredible. I would be 26 when we opened up the time capsule. What would my life be like? Would I still be on the coast of Maine? Would I have gone to college, gotten married? 2020 bounced in my mind every New Year’s Eve since then.
In the midst of making a big change, it’s hard to remember to stop and think about your emotions or the places and people you’re leaving behind. Use these writing prompts to reflect and appreciate your life changes.
Fifteen months living on a small army base in Vilseck, Germany, coming to a close. Unlike my usual habit of talking (or writing) with no end in sight, I don’t quite have the words today. So, this Wednesday, instead of posting a series of writing prompts, or a wordy life reflection with a heavy dose of nostalgia, I’m doing something different. Something for me.
Dive into that October feeling by exploring your creepy side with these writing prompts.
Our first year of marriage sealed in these 7 boxes, full of the menial, yet meaningful items that make our days go by, showing us how little we actually need to be happy. In one day this organized chaos will be systematically removed and loaded onto a truck, then a boat, then a port, then our new home. Our house will echo in the emptiness, the end of this chapter.
New journal, unknown possibilities, fresh start. You ever flip through your blank journal, wondering what stories, lists, and scribbles will land there? Where will your life take you while you are filling these 120 pages?
How do I best start off this new phase? For some reason, the integrity of these bound pages depends entirely on how I choose to fill the first few pages. Here are the best ways to start a fresh journal.
When I finish a journal, it signifies the end of a life chapter; whatever happened within those pages is now in the past. A fresh journal is a fresh start. Because of this, I often visualize specific periods of my life with what journal I used at the time. My year in Scotland? Ahhh, the red hardcover. My tiny apartment Portland, Maine; teaching, getting married, and preparing for Germany? That’s the era of the turquoise lined soft cover. My life fizzles down into a bunch of Moleskines.
For the lover of all things ‘Harry Potter’, find inspiration in these 5 magical writing prompts to get you motivated.
Christmas morning rolls around. A big box, wrapped in gold paper and an oversized bow sits under the tree, an eager puppy waiting inside. This puppy is a blank slate, ready to be trained, immediately loving everyone around him, and would rarely have an accident in the house. He would understand the expectations without being trained over and over again. He would adjust into our family routine without a hiccup. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know what you just read isn’t reality, even a little bit.
Part of a writing group or class and need ideas? Look no further!
Many prompts and exercises we do in my writing group depend on the participation of the other group members. I realized that the most engaging sessions, the greatest group memories, and funniest stories come from ideas generated within the group.
Throughout life, each person we come across can be a teacher. Not necessarily a school teacher, but a teacher brought to us to impart a meaningful lesson. List people you would consider your personal teachers and jot what lessons you’ve learned from them along the way.
In the past, I’ve written about leaving, about saying goodbye to what you once knew, about the fear of forgetting. Now we’re thrown in the boiling stew once again, our essence of life here about to be lifted and dropped in a new country, a new home.
Journaling at night takes a different tone than journaling in the morning, often a more knowing tone, one that has grown and seen more. It’s strange how 15 hours can alter a person’s mindset, then reset the following sunrise.
Every day, I notice new videos and blogs popping up about people’s morning routines. I think the part of ourselves that is desperate answers, for productivity, to create a life we’re not living, is attracted to these seemingly perfect people suggesting how we can start our day.
Stress manifests in our lives in different ways. You can spend 10 minutes pouring back into yourself to find your center of balance and refocus on your goals. If you’re feeling stressed and have a bit of spare time, sit down, take a breather, and write.
Get your thoughts flowing and your memoir started with these life writing exercises that only take a few minutes.
Look into the bonds your characters share with others by following these exercises and prompts.
Choose a relationship pairing on this list. Write your character through interactions within this pairing.
Traveling can be life changing. A single trip can alter the course of your life and give you your most memorable experiences. It can also be stressful, mundane, and make you want to go home. Your journal should show every angle of traveling, the highs and the lows. It should not look perfect, because traveling is not perfect.
1. Flying out of Maine, landing in Munich, then driving onto an American army base created an eerie sense of culture shock. The base is a tiny piece of America in the middle of Germany, with fast food restaurants like Popeye’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Southern accents, and the National Anthem playing before every movie on post. American flags.
One of my worst writing habits is the inclination to write happy and descriptive scenes, rather than action filled, stressful ones. In my head, it seems to all fall into place so neatly, though when I take the time to write, I realize how unrealistic it feels. People, and characters, experience pain in their lives. How they confront these stressful experiences is what molds them, and ultimately, what makes them interesting to read. Check out these prompts to give depth to your characters.
Sitting down with a notebook or a laptop and immediately feeling inspired to write is a huge expectation we put on ourselves, and not one that is easily achievable. I’ve found that focusing on my physical environment can kickstart the flow of ideas. Do you have a book lying around? How about a whole library? Here are three ways to use the literature existing around you to write your own.
Rovinj is an eclectic mix of colorful shutters, winding, white stone pathways, laundry hanging from multiple stories of windows, and a summer breeze. It’s almost more Mamma Mia than the film itself. Like with any location we’ve traveled to, there were many lessons we learned during our four days in the idyllic (former) island city of Rovinj.
While drafting a timeline of chapters for your creative writing story, create another character with the help of a few random idea-generating lists. Will this character belong in your story?
Pick a name on this list and start writing.
Today we’re zoning in on an exercise and a prompt that will begin the process of putting together the pieces you’ve been building. We started at creating a character, now we’re filling in the gaps.
Starting a creative writing session with a stream of consciousness can empty out any personal thoughts or details that are lingering in your mind. You might be surprised by the gems that you write during this “zone out” time. Since I’ve started this routine, I have a difficult time beginning my creative writing time without emptying my thoughts and starting with a clean slate.
We can learn a lot about each other by discovering our fears. The same can be said when developing a fictional character. You’ll be creating a list (rooted in their history), then creating a confrontational situation for your character.
Struggling to write your character through an emotional experience? Follow this series of writing exercises and prompts to open your character up to emotional experiences.
Choose emotions on this list to have your character experience. Try writing your character through multiple emotions, either due to an external circumstance or an internal realization.
Dig deeper into your character by following these writing prompts. To create a well-rounded character, you must include a range of traits, positive and negative. Choosing their zodiac sign can be a great tool for this, along with writing them through a stressful situation.
Choose a situation on this list to have your character live through. Writing your character through traumatizing and stressful situations can show you who they truly are.
Let’s continue creative writing by putting your newfound character into situations and see how they respond. Follow these quick exercises and prompts to get the most out of your character writing.
Pick a location on this list and start writing.
If you’re like me, you love the idea of writing stories. Having your words be read by others. Publishing your work. If you’re like me, you’ve figured out how difficult that can be, especially if you’re creating characters and a story line from scratch. Today can be the very start of this journey – the seed that will grow into something beyond you. Let’s start with a character.
Ahhhh, another Wednesday writing session. This is a time where you shut off the white noise in your life, reflect, and hopefully end up with writing you’re proud of. Since we are focusing on life writing still, we’re now honing in on intrinsic and extrinsic qualities of character building. The twist is, you’ll be writing about someone you intimately know.
We’re officially in another week of life writing practice, this time focusing in on including those key sensory detail that make your writing come alive.
Feeling blocked? Pick one of the following prompts at random and get those creative juices flowing again. If you have suggestions for more, or want to share your writing, do so below!
Need ideas to unblock your creativity? Interested in writing but you don’t know where to get started? You can follow this life writing playbook with a friend, a group, or by yourself.
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