If you’re anything like me (or any other writerly type in the universe), you might be accustomed to creating brilliant (and sometime quite logical) reasons why you can’t be writing or working toward writing in the present moment.
These are often called “excuses.” They sound like, “I’m in a staff meeting” or “I have a meeting in twenty minutes” or “I have to invoice my client.” Okay, those are all pretty good reasons to not be doing anything else. Still, I often get stuck on the idea that every time I write I have to make a significant time investment. Not true! If you’re sitting at your desk, and you’re up for a coffee break, below are six easy writing prompts to get the prose flowing. Remember: Every great novel or memoir started with a single sentence.
I know how easy it is to get sucked in to reading an email or checking a website while you’re doing something, so I urge you to turn off your computer monitor and grab a pen and pad for this exercise. If you must work on a computer, open a Word doc, shut down all web pages and Outlook pages for the time being, and promise yourself NOT to reopen them for SIX WHOLE MINUTES. Then, set your phone alarm for six minutes, and GO! Don’t worry about the amount or quality of the content that comes out of you—just let yourself get immersed in the storytelling for the duration of the six minutes. If you need a moment to get into the “mood,” click HERE.
1. Describe a moment in your childhood best friend’s bedroom.
I have very distinct memories of my childhood best friend and ideas we would come up with in her bedroom. Just casually browsing through my memories immediately produces scene after scene of material!
2. Describe an experience you had on a school bus.
Everyone has had an experience on a school bus. Were you bullied? Were YOU the bully? Did you have a bus driver worth remembering? I once had a bus driver who was an aspiring standup comedian and would play tapes of himself “being funny” for the duration of the ride.
3. Describe your grandparents’ kitchen and what knickknacks lived there.
Every grandparent has knickknacks in their kitchen. It’s a rule. Think back to when you were a child—what knickknacks do you remember from your grandparents’ kitchen?
4. Describe a time you felt like playing hooky and why.
We’ve all been there . . . in first grade and in adulthood. Was there a time you thought about playing hooky? Did you have a good reason? Did you go through with it?
5. Describe an adult conversation you overheard when you were a child; interpret what it means now that you’re an adult.
I have a distinct memory of sitting on the stairs and hearing my parents discussing sending me to a different school, and I was devastated. As an adult, I see that I would have been fine, of course.
6. Describe a moment when you first realized that death was as real as life.
Warning: Mildly graphic material follows! I often played by a creek near my house with my childhood best friend. One day at the creek, we came across a raccoon that had probably died only a day or two earlier. She shied away, but for some reason I was drawn. I had never been that close to a living raccoon, so I figured it was a good opportunity to inspect. As I kneeled down near it and looked at its face, and I saw an assortment of bugs around and on it, it occurred to me that I was no longer looking at a raccoon but the shell of a raccoon. After my creepy little moment, we went back to playing.
Writers: How did your six minutes go? If it went well (or even if it didn’t), consider posting the fruits of your writing break in a comment below! We’d love to see what you came up with!