• M.A. Hickinbotham

Getting your creative juices flowing

Have you ever sat with pen and paper, or fingers poised over the laptop, craving to create or continue a work of art but lacking even a single idea? That might sound strange to some people; after all, it would seem like one would prepare to write only if ideas were already bursting at the seams to be birthed. However, getting stumped—writer’s block—is a common occurrence for anyone wishing to write regularly. At times like these, writing prompts can be beneficial.

Obviously, sitting down to write each day doesn’t necessarily mean picking up where you left off on your novel, outlining a screenplay, or even creating a poem. Journal and blog entries are also great ways to keep a healthy habit of writing. Even just jotting down a detailed description of something can be enough. Still, when even those wells of inspiration seem to have run dry, writing prompts can get the creative juices flowing. Here are a few ideas that might help.

Rory’s Story Cubes, found online or at stores like Walmart and Books-A-Million, can be a terrific tool for challenging yourself to create impromptu stories—characters, plots, dialogue…you name it. When used in a group, they can also be helpful for developing skills necessary for listening and improv public speaking. To summarize their use, players roll the cubes—each with six images—and verbally create a story based on the images facing up. With multiple players, each player can roll one die and tell a piece of a progressive story to which subsequent players add. On the whole, it is a creative tool to inspire ideas, even if they are completely ridiculous. Several downloadable iPhone and Android apps also provide this function at little or no cost.

Another idea particularly good for groups is to think of random things—themes, phrases, settings, characters, objects and the like—and write them on small pieces of paper. Fold and place each of them in a pile or container from which one person will blindly draw. Whatever idea is picked is what everyone will include in his or her story, poem, description, etc. This activity can be done alone but doesn’t allow for any surprise if you are the one writing the prompts. Therefore, an alternate way of enjoying this is to have a pile or container for each concept (setting, character, situation, etc.) and draw one from each so as to flesh out a story, kind of like a spontaneous Mad Lib experience. Or, you can have a family member or friend come up with the prompts, so you are completely unaware of the concepts. As with the story cubes, various apps and websites also give this kind of story creation capability.

One more idea that can be done alone is to close your eyes and put your finger down on a newspaper article, page of a novel, dictionary or thesaurus entry…anything in print. You then create a work of art from whatever word you are so “fortunate” to discover upon opening your eyes. It might sound too simple or even silly, but you will be surprised how challenging and fun it can be to create from those impromptu cues.

Whatever your method, do something to stay active and inspired. There really is no such thing as writer’s block, because even if you have to take a pause from whatever entrée is on your plate, you can always tap into an appetizer to get the creative juices flowing.

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