What is a writing prompt?

F Scott Fitzgerald

"All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath"

F. Scott Fitzgerald

This quote sums up writing prompts beautifully.

When you choose a writing prompt, hit the timer, and start writing, it just like you have taken a deep breath and jumped off the spring board into the crystal clear water of the pool, and are now swimming underwater until you get to the far end, when you can put your head back above the water and take a long deep breath.

Unless you have a fear of water, most people would agree that swimming is not just a great form of exercise, but it can be incredibly peaceful and a great way to take your mind of the events of the day and focus on nothing but the task in hand.

Ayn Rand, another famous author, said:

"Words are a lens to focus one's mind"

This is super-applicable to writing prompts.

A writing prompt has the ability to channel your thinking into a very narrow channel, where only the question asked by the writing prompt is of any importance.

You are probably already starting to see why writing prompts are such a powerful tool for writing therapy, but it gets even better.


Benefits of Writing Prompts

In addition to helping you to channel your thinking into a very narrow channel, like a powerful laser on dark night, there are heaps more benefits.

Here are just ten to whet your appetite, and then we can take a look at how Writing Therapy takes all of this writing prompt stuff to a whole new level.

  • Benefit #1:  They challenge you to examine an unfamiliar object, subject, experience of feeling.
  • Benefit #2: They make writing fun and interesting.
  • Benefit #3: They encourage you to look at things through a different lens.
  • Benefit #4: They help you to find your true voice
  • Benefit #5: Reduces the pressure of having to think about what you write - just let the words flow out
  • Benefit #6: Like one-off projects that don't demand any long term commitment - just dive in a get it done.
  • Benefit #7: Ideal for times when you want to write about something that is not too challenging.
  • Benefit #8: Gets you out of yourself so that you can focus on something you might never normally think about.
  • Benefit #9: Help you to build a daily writing habit.
  • Benefit #10: Great for times when you just have a few minutes to spare.
  • Benefit #11: Can help you have realisations you might never have come to otherwise.
  • Benefit #12: Improves your creativity and thinking skills.

Writing prompts really do pack a punch when it comes to value for the time invested, don't they? And the great thing is you can dive in whenever and wherever you like.

How does it work in Writing Therapy

When we were building the writing prompts tool for Writing Therapy we wanted to make it quick and easy to get going, whilst at the same time being jammed to the rafters with appealing writing prompts for you to get your teeth into.

With this in mind we approach things rather differently to your normal run-of-the-mill list of prompts.

Right from the get-go we realized how overwhelming it was to get shown a list of 5,000 prompts from which to choose.

Not only was it daunting, but it had two other major problems.

Firstly, it meant people spent far too long looking through the long list of prompts to find one to tackle.

Second, there were so many displayed that it was very easy to find one that was well within a person's comfort zone.

To get around this our research clearly demonstrated that it was better to show people eight writing prompts at a time, and the user would have to pick from those eight.

The number eight worked well, because it was sufficient to give people a choice, whilst not being so many that people felt daunted.

Types of Writing Prompt

We then fine-tuned this further by allow people to pick a category from which the eight prompts would be selected. These eight categories are:

  • Self Help
  • Quotes
  • Your Life
  • Confession
  • If, When, Where, What
  • Lists
  • Creative
  • Random

The last one is simply a catch-all that selects eight writing prompts at random from all the other categories.

This categorisation works very well, as there are times when you have a genuine desire to to write about something confessional, whereas at other times that might be a type of writing that you just don't feel at all comfortable about taking on,

And then there are other times where you want something a little playful, that will provide you with a distraction. At times like that you might choose a category such as Lists or If, Where, When, What.

Once you've chosen the writing prompt you want to work with, you need to choose the amount of time you want to write for. You can choose between 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes.

The 5 minute timer is okay if you just want to have a quick toe-dip, but if you want to do a deep-dive, which is highly recommended, then you should really be looking at 10 minutes or more.

People will often choose a time such as 10 minutes, let that run down, half a minute or two to stretch, and then set the timer for a second period of 10 minutes and dive back in.

If you've never used writing prompts before the chances are you will be in for a pleasant surprise. They are a brilliant way of shooting you off in totally unexpected directions. This can be a massive boost to creativity, which is why so many top fiction authors use them, but they can also be a highly effective way of letting you explore things you would never have thought of otherwise.

You'll be pleasantly surprised as to the breadth of writing prompts in Writing Therapy. Not only do you have eight categories to choose from, but each one is packed with innovative, thought-provoking, and original prompts.

Whether you want a creative boost, a cathartic release, or just something random to write about, give the Writing Prompt tool a try. We think you'll love it.