Sometimes the unconscious knows what it wants to write about and sends the words bubbling to the surface and onto the page. At other times we find ourselves staring at a blank page or computer screen and wondering what we have worth writing about. At times like those, we might need a bit of prompting in our writing.
I had reached one of those times last month. One reason why I signed up for the 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge is that it promised a daily writing prompt.
But once this challenge is over, there are some books to fill the gap. On my bookshelf are the following books that I have collected over the years:
A Daily Dose of Sanity: A Five-Minute Soul Recharge for Every Day of the Year by Andy Cohen (Hay House, 2010)
This book has a spiritual emphasis, though Cohen uses the word spiritual in its broadest sense: “This book is not associated with any particular religion, organization, or spiritual path” (introduction). Each entry comprises a general discussion of some topic, with illustrative anecdotes, a pertinent question or two, and an affirmation. The focus on general affirmations would allow for reuse in subsequent years. Entries are dated and printed one to a page.
The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life by Fred White (Writer’s Digest Books, 2008)
According to the introduction, “The Daily Writer is designed to help awaken and nurture the spiritual side of writing through daily meditation and practice throughout the calendar year.” Like Cohen (above), White uses the word spiritual in its broadest sense. Each entry discusses a broad topic (e.g., daydreaming with a purpose, discouragement as inspiration) and ends with a “try this” writing exercise. Because the entries are so broad, this book could be used many times, with each run-through bringing up new possibilities for writing. Entries are dated and printed one to a page.
The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer (Writer’s Digest Books, 2006)
Neubauer’s book addresses a writer’s worst nightmare, the dreaded blank page. She encourages users to write for 10 minutes every day on one of her colorful, graphically intense pages: “At the end of the year you will have written at least 365 pages … And not once during the year will you have faced a blank page.” The entries are numbered (Day 129) rather than dated, so you can jump in any time during the year. At the bottom of each page is a box labeled “take the next step” that includes suggestions for expanding on that day’s writing exercise or for thinking about the writing life in general (e.g., “What is keeping you from asking for help?”). I don’t plan on actually writing on the workbook pages, however, as these exercises could be reused in subsequent years.
One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft by Susan M. Tiberghien (Da Capo Press, 2007)
In this book Tiberghien combines two components of the writing life: inspiration and instruction. Each of the 12 lessons contains several writing exercises. In the introduction Tiberghien lays out her logic for the order of the lessons, but she also says that writers can use the lessons in whatever order works best for them. And although the number of lessons corresponds to the number of months in a year, she gives writers permission to spend whatever amount of time they feel is appropriate for each lesson. The use of lessons rather than dated entries allows users to pick up the program at any time.
Starting Points: A Year of Writing Prompts by Susan Wittig Albert (Story Circle Network, 2007, 2013)
Like many writing gurus, Albert advocates writing every day. “I’ve chosen the one-prompt-a-week format (rather than a daily prompt) because I believe it results in longer and deeper thoughts, as you explore the question or issue from different directions during your daily writing sessions.” Albert organizes the book by month, but she says writers can start at any time during the year and then cycle through the book until they come back round to where they started. She also wants writers to work on each month’s four prompts in whatever order appeals to them. The book concludes with several short sections of writing advice.
A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life, by Judy Reeves (New World Library, 1999)
There is a revised edition (2010) available, but my comments pertain to the original version, which I have.
“The book is divided into months, with each of the twelve months containing a profusion of writerly counsel and advice, words of inspiration, and literary lore and legend” (p. 6). Each month begins with a Guideline for Writing Practice. Reeves intersperses dated prompts for the month within a wealth of informative nuggets about writers and the writing life. Because the prompts are suggestive enough to evoke many different responses, the book can be used repeatedly.
Of the books listed here, this is the one I return to most often.
These are just a few books that I happen to have. If you search for “writing prompts,” you’ll find many, many more. If you have used others, please post to the comments.