Write with Word Prompts

When you’re around the poetry, short-story and creative writing scene you surely may have stumbled across the term ‘word prompts’ before.

Word prompts are generally single words or phrases issued out to creators with the intention of directing them to write about a particular topic. The word prompt may be something as simple as “ocean” or something a little more tricky like “offering solace to those who have lost.”

You may have passed up a fair number of word or writing prompts perhaps because you had no idea what to do with the topic, or don’t generally enjoy being given something to write about. You may even prefer to write only when you feel inspired.

The reality is, however, that inspiration comes and goes and it’s a pretty flimsy platform to balance your artistry on. Persistence and practice are what I find to be the most rewarding ingredients to continue creating frequently.

When you find yourself in those moments where you’re experiencing a bit of a slump or don’t know where to start or what to write about, word prompts can be an extremely useful tool. The reason is because you’re narrowing your topic down from “anything” to a very specific term, phrase or idea. An added benefit to this is that you may be pushed to write in unfamiliar territory.

The largest reward, however, and the way that you should think about word prompts, is that there is a high chance you will end up with a piece of writing you previously would not have written.

I’ll share a prime example with you:

This poem of mine was inspired entirely by a word prompt. Reading it you probably would not be able to guess what the prompt was or even whether it was a word or phrase.

The word prompt here was simply ‘whistle’.

That’s it. That single word led my mind to think of how whistling can be creepy in the right context, and how the mind can play tricks on you with sounds. Those little meanderings led to the creation of this poem, which otherwise would not exist if not for the word prompt.

The poem ended up featured on the page of the artist who issued the prompt in the first place.

It’s not the first and it certainly won’t be the last time that a word prompt has led to a great outcome for me. Of course not all word prompts will work for you or get you going creatively, and many may lead nowhere at all. The important part is to actually interact with the prompts and try to elicit a real response to it. Sometimes, not taking the prompt literally is worthwhile too.

If you’re someone who genuinely struggles to be inspired by written words, the natural prompt I would suggest is imagery and art, as depicted below:

This poem was inspired entirely by the stunning photograph accompanying it that the creator Yvette Stephen was kind enough to let me use.

The most important tools you have as a writer is your mind, personality and experiences and how they all play against each other in response to the world around you. There’s absolutely a difference between waiting for inspiration to hit you, and actively seeking out stimulants to prompt you.

I would hope that this post has given you cause to believe in the power of word prompts, and I certainly hold up hope that the next time you encounter a word prompt that you can work with, you’re inspired to write something awesome. Should that happen, be sure to share it with me!

Published by Azhar Amien

Azhar Amien is a South African writer who has been honing his craft since age ten. Formerly a blogger and editor of a gaming and technology website, he has also self-published a novel that he wrote as a student. This year Azhar feels ready to pursue professional outlets for his writing. Whilst working on a new novel Azhar delved into poetry, finding a creative spark that spawned a whole collection. Azhar creates with one motto in mind: writing is madness finding its escape hatch. You can read more of his poetry and writings on Instagram @storiesbyazhar and interact with him on Twitter @azhar_amien

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