Bad-Ass Writing Prompts to Kick-Start a More Creative 2016

As you sharpen your trusty #2’s for a new year of writing, I wanted to pass a little gift your way. When you feel that initial oh-my-god-I’m-totally-gonna-write-every-day-this-year enthusiasm shape-shifting into dread and resentment — try some prompts.

I originally designed these for the writing communities on Coach.me and they have now been test-driven by hundreds of users. We all need a creative kick-start at times, and a prompt is nothing more than an oil can for your your rusty Tin Man days.

Without further ado, here are fifteen of my most popular writing prompts from the past year:

1. Write a letter to your 8-year-old self. Knowing what you now know about life, what advice can you offer? What warnings can you issue?

2. Jot down three things you don’t like about yourself. Possible examples range from your hairstyle to your workaholism to your anger management issues. Now choose one of them and write it a break-up letter.

3. You are permitted to commit one crime with absolutely no consequences. What would you do and why?

4. You wake up one morning to discover that you have lost your favorite of the five major senses. Which one is gone? How does it change your life?

5. You find yourself in a packed auditorium. You look down at the program and see that you are the keynote speaker. What is the subject? What do you say? How does the audience respond?

6. You are suddenly sitting in the back row of your own memorial service, listening to the eulogy being delivered. What is being said?

7. Select one of your pets (past or present). Today, that pet woke up with the ability to speak in your native tongue. Write out a detailed dialogue between you and your companion.

8. You walk into an art gallery and find a series of paintings that illustrate your life. The final painting stops you in your tracks, because it represents what you consider to be the biggest turning point in your life, thus far. Describe the painting in detail.

9. You find yourself in a boxing ring with your greatest fear. Describe the scene and detail your plan of attack.

10. You are rapidly sinking into a pit of quicksand. A booming voice informs you that the only way to survive is to issue a heartfelt apology for something you did in the past. Write your apology. And HURRY!

11. You are meeting with the architect and contractor to finalize the plans for your dream home. They ask you to describe how it looks from the moment you approach the front door. Detail your description here and then reflect on which of the elements (if any) are embodied by your current residence.

12. You are on a 5-mile run and discover a large photograph at each mile-marker. You immediately realize that the photos are portraits of important people from your past. As you continue to run, you shout a statement of thanks to each person, highlighting how they’ve impacted you. Write these expressions of gratitude and describe how you feel as you cross the finish line.

13. Describe your childhood bedroom. Include smells, colors, and textures as you detail the space. How, if at all, does it reflect who you are today?

14. Write a heartfelt love letter that you will never send.

15. Create a contract with yourself that details your future commitment to writing. Include reminders of what you gain from the process as well as ways to maintain momentum when roadblocks emerge. Sign it. Date it. Keep it in your journal where you will (hopefully) see it every day.

When a man’s an empty kettle,
He should be on his mettle
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’
That I could be kinda human,
If I only had a heart. -Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz