CHANGE: ENEMY OR ALLY? IT'S UP TO YOU!
Talk about change! It’s all on at home this month…
These short weeks of January have been my last with a pre-schooler at home. My youngest turned five this month, and that means starting school in the first week of February. It’s the strangest thing anticipating her not being ‘little’ anymore. She’s such a capable kid, and whilst she has the odd emotional moment and worry, she’s so chilled about it all (yes, I’m jealous!). She’s adept at taking things in her stride, plus she’s unbelievably lucky in having my sister as her first teacher at primary school, and her big sister and cousins to walk beside her through it all. She’s going to school knowing there are people there that love her already, and will always have her back. I envy her that (I’m an eldest child and didn’t know a soul when I started school). So, after a good month of summer holiday lazy days, we’re back to creating new routines and learning to stick to them.
We’ve already passed the first two of our many monumental birthdays for the year– my daughter’s fifth, and my father’s sixty-fifth. Instead of big shindigs, we’ve gone gently this year, celebrating with close family in informal settings – swimming at the school pool, lunches at my parents’ place, and we’ve spread out over several days. We’ve needed it that way with everyone having unseasonable colds and a few dramas early in the month. One of my family members joined a well-known local ‘club’ – the ‘I ‘parked’ in the harbour club.’ This day served as a reminder that it’s easy to do (most long-time peninsula people have a go at some time in their lives), and that we’re so incredibly lucky to live in the community we do; we know members of our local volunteer Fire and Emergency crew personally, and they came to the rescue with genuine concern and a humorous, caring touch. They pointed out to us, too, that my family stick together like glue – if one is in trouble, we’ll all turn up to get them out of it. In the space of a half-hour, said family-member had four vehicles and their entire immediate family on hand to transport children, pick up bits of vehicle off the beach, and clear out the busted car on one very wet day. I don’t fancy repeating that day ever again, but I’ve an increased appreciation for our emergency services, especially those whom do it on a volunteer basis.
Scary bits aside, my husband, children and I have spent the holidays catching up on rest, jobs around home, and occasional outings. We spent New Year’s Day with a rare trip to the movies to see Frozen 2. I’ll quietly recommend it here, because all four of us enjoyed it, and more than the first movie. I enjoyed this storyline more, and discovering more about the past of Anna and Elsa’s family helped the first movie make more sense. On a slightly disconcerting note, the message in the movie, following your inner voice and embracing change, mirrors where I am in my head at the moment. Elsa reminds me that I have to make the most of the challenges and changes my inner voice demands, and Anna/Kristoff’s, embracing change through uncertainty, reminds that I’ll make it through, especially with a positive mind-set.
My positives through change this month are: I’m about to have two children going to the same place each morning (no time-wasting multiple pickups and drop-offs), meaning I’ll have three days a week that will be my dedicated writing time; I’ll also have one less little person on my care days, and that in itself creates opportunities; it’s another step on my ladder to where I want to be in life, a little more freedom with children that are slowly growing into their independence so I’m regaining my own a little at a time. My inner voice strives for a successful writing career, and it’s up to me to make it happen, no one else. If I don’t go for it, I’ll forever regret the missed opportunity and wonder ‘what if…’
Let’s not miss those writing opportunities!
I’ve got a big opportunity with my three dedicated writing days (one of which I’m using today!). Sure, I won’t get three every week – I’ll have swap days with my little charges, and if I have appointments it makes sense to schedule them for a ‘no kids’ day, but it’s time I’ll have to make the most of. Luckily I’ve had the rare foresight to get prepared early. I set up my planner at the end of December, I’ve found tips and tricks to be more productive (insert links), and I’ve set goals, real ones, big ones, something I’ve been reluctant to commit to in the past. I’m looking at it as a rededication to what I feel is my ‘calling’ (my ‘thing read more here to find yours) and if I don’t give it a good go now, I might lose my opportunity.
January has been eye-opening in terms of how much work I can accomplish if I set goals and push to reach them. I set a time goal at the beginning of the year and have surprised myself by exceeding it by a large margin! (Check out more on goal-setting here: https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/quick-tip-1-goal-setting-the-easy-and-doable-way) The beginning of February, however, has been more of a challenge pushing through the new routine with small people days, school trips, and just adjusting to the new routine. I’ve been tired and reluctant, but my super-short weekly reflection and planning sessions have reminded me of the positive feelings and achievements I’ve made, and that gets me fired up again, mostly. Tiredness is my enemy, but one I can eliminate by going to bed earlier! Now to actually do that…
Embracing change and striving all round…
Sometimes we just have to hold on and ride the storm, others we’ve got to push on through. Reflection and planning have proved to be so useful to me. Having my wee planner book (no matter how rough and ready it is), and writing down my reflections and plans sets it in concrete, along with the fierce intent to do better. Hey, it’s only taken 37 years to get my butt into gear on that one. It turns out my resistance (or rather, not-readiness) has held me back for a looong time, but no more!
I’m hopeless with change (mostly through my thinking, partially attributed to anxiety and depression in more recent years), though a friend reminded me recently that most people are knocked around by change in one way or another. We all wobble when it comes up, some more than others, but change is an important part of life, and if we find healthy ways of thinking to cope with it, it can be positive too (thanks Liz!). It’s just taken me a little longer to learn to find, and to embrace the positive.
Particularly over the last month I’ve run with the need to find tips and tricks to create a healthier and more successful way of ‘doing life.’ I’ve developed routines and rituals to follow, including re-setting my thinking each week through reflection and mindful planning (you can read more about this here https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/self-reflective-journaling-improve-your-focus-in-just-ten-minutes-per-week), tweaking old ways (turning my haphazard jumping from task to task into mindfully time-blocked sections), and setting those previously dreaded goals (read more here https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/time-management-for-authors-bloggers-or-anyone-with-a-goal-to-smash); I’m not in the sweet spot yet, but it all helps. I’ve had a largely successful January due to a bit of intent, and surpassing previous goals (heck, even last year’s tiny goals are coming in handy!).
In short, I’m learning to act deliberately more often, to embrace the home and work routines to my advantage in both areas together, and the boost I’m getting from achieving goals has lifted my mood – good for everyone in my house, myself included!
Have a great month everyone, especially those with littlies going back to school,
How has acting mindfully and with intent helped you in your home and work life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments .
This is a short prequel to my contemporary fiction novel, Victory Island. I felt after releasing Victory, that I wanted to explore a little of Charlotte's Grandfather, George. We don't meet him at all in the novel, but I've had his voice strong in my mind lately. I tell you, it was a challenge to restrict him to 1500 words!
Enjoy, and keep an eye out for FREE Fridays!
George, an elderly farmer, lives alone on Victory Island. Except for dwindling visits from his granddaughter, Charlotte, and weekly ones from Department of Conservation officer, Ben, he's used to fending for himself and prefers it that way.
Tonight though, worries weigh on George's mind: he's concerned for Charlotte who is in a relationship with a man George doesn't trust, and a recent reminder of his own mortality frustrates him.
With much to think through, George makes a cuppa and sits down to consider how Ben might help to solve his mounting problems, for Charlotte's sake more than his own.
One Last Cuppa
Due to publication date, this story will be offered FREE for 24 hours on Saturday 8th of February (US Pacific Time). Future Free Fridays will actually happen on Fridays (US Pacific Time)!
All Flash Fiction Friday stories will be locked down to the
lowest price at all other times!
Journaling, self-reflection, mindfulness – it’s not a new concept (and for good reason!), but you won’t believe how just five to ten short minutes per week can seriously make all the difference. I’m stunned at the change it has made to my working life in the four weeks I’ve been using it, and the positive effects have flowed over into the rest of my life too! Come along and find out how you can make it work for you!
Self-reflective Journaling – a simple but effective tool.
I’ve discovered that journaling – reflecting on the past week and looking ahead to the next with specific questions in mind – provides multiple benefits:
- I keep tabs on how I’m feeling and the causes;
- I can see what I’ve achieved and where I need to try harder;
- I’m making a written record of progress that I can flip back to;
- I can monitor my goals (and celebrate my wins!);
- It helps me plan my week effectively;
- I’m motivated through capturing positives and setting up how I want to feel;
- I’m more relaxed and clearheaded about what I need to do.
I’ve discovered that self-reflective journaling...provides multiple benefits..." - Emily Larkins.
How I use self-reflective journaling to improve my week, and how you can too!
STEP 1: REFLECT.
On Saturday afternoon (the day I consider the end of my work week), I use the ‘End of WeekCheck-In’ chart. Now it’s up to you how much want to write for each of the six sentence starters, but I keep it to just one or two sentences for each – a quick snapshot of where I’m at to get me thinking. I also journal directly onto my planning page for the week so I’ve got it all in one place. I quickly get a sense of how I went over the previous week, and the final three questions put me in a positive frame of mind, even if I didn’t have the greatest week.
STEP 3: REFOCUS.
I have a third chart in my arsenal for those moments when reading back over my Start of Week Check-In isn’t enough - ‘Q’s to check-in with yourself.’ This is my go-to if I’m out of sorts at any stage in the middle of the week. It’s a quick re-focusing tool and a way to let go of what’s knocked me.
How has this helped you you? Do you want more tips on planning, writing, or productivity? OR do you have any great journaling tips to share? Let me know in the comments below, and keep an eye out for my next Quick Tip!
Time Management is a big deal for me. I’m usually pretty good at recording what I’ve done, but in the past I’ve been resistant to planning ahead and sticking to goals – making myself accountable. This year I hope to overcome my expert procrastinator side and bust the moves when it comes to efficiency. Read on to find out how I plan to do it.
To reach your destination, you need to plan your route. You also need a format to do that.
I wish to be capable of regular blog output, I wish to publish short stories regularly, and offer free content, but wishing doesn’t get you anywhere without structure and commitment. You can have all the hopes and dreams in the world, but if you don’t lock yourself in with dedicated time and get that bum in the chair, like 2019 me, you’ll only accomplish a mere fraction of what you’re capable of.
My intention for 2020 is to up my game bigtime. To accomplish that, I’ve spent a considerable number of hours and oodles of energy researching and developing my 2020 prototype planning documents. I’ve run with the excitement of it and come up with a workable plan. You can learn from my hard work and save yourself that graft by using my ideas as a base to build your own.
“Wishing doesn’t get you anywhere without structure and commitment. Make a plan, set dates, and back yourself to smash them.” - Emily Larkins
Here’s how I’ve set myself up for success in planning ahead in 2020.
Another great strategy I came across during research is Time Blocking. I found this great tip on Pinterest, sourced from productiveflourishing.com (you can read about it for yourself here… https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/590604938619194355/). The essentials are that you break your time into four blocks: Focus Blocks (for when you’re in the zone, and at your best), Social Blocks (when you’re in the right mind-set to meet other people), Admin Blocks (work you can do when you’re not at your best, but can still work productively), and Recovery Blocks (recharging time such as exercise, meditation, reading…). I’ve set myself up a chart that I can refer to throughout the day with task ideas under each. If I feel my self slipping from Focus to Admin, I can switch over and pick a task. When I plan each day, I try to include something from each area so I can switch when I need to. It helps, too, to think of the Recovery Block as part of a productive work day (so long as the whole day isn’t recovery block!). Reading, for me, is an essential part of my recovery time as reading feeds writing. When I’m reading, I’m learning more of my craft, analysing how other writers develop their stories, and what I do and don’t like about the way they tell stories. It removes some of that guilt that I get when I feel I’m being unproductive. It’s about changing that mind-set and being kinder to myself.
I have to admit, though, that setting up my new system has been fun; time-consuming, but fun.
In my former life as a primary school teacher, planner books were an essential element referred to throughout the day. They are about accountability and a visual record of what my class worked through over the school year. At the beginning of the year and each term, as a team, the whole school staff looked at overarching themes for the year, set-date events, etc. That staff was also split into three groups, (syndicates covering a few year-groups each – junior classes, middle classes, and senior classes), and looked ahead term by term together, roughly three monthly, but also down to weeks at a time. So, I’m used to a year calendar, for the broad stuff, term plans for looking closer at each subject area, and weekly plan pages for the day to day and routine stuff.
Now you’ll note that I said former teacher. It was the paperwork side of teaching that overcooked me in the end, and much of that came down to the depth of forward planning required, followed by mountains of testing, assessment, and reports. The stakes were incredibly high, along with the pressure to be perfect. While I like a timetable and a daily plan, I struggle to produce such things too far ahead of time because I love to break the pattern. I love the ‘teachable moment,’ running with a student’s question, but in the current teaching climate in New Zealand, that leads to essentials missing their required time. Oh, and I HATE it when I fall behind and my future plan suddenly looks very different to what I’m actually doing. It feels like doing the work twice as I’d have to change that long-term plan to reflect what I actually did. I also like to do things differently each day, to run with ideas, and largely to please myself, which isn’t exactly embraced in a school setting. That’s why I’ve got a planner that looks as it does. It’s about what works for ME and how I like to do things.
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Here are the key things I need to point out to make this work for you:
- ALWAYS work back from your goals. Look at the big picture and chop your down into manageable chunks or steps that you can chip away at from week to week. See my Quick Tip on Goal Setting for ideas on this: https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/quick-tip-1-goal-setting-the-easy-and-doable-way
- Reflecting on the past week and looking ahead to the next really helps. See my next Quick Tip on Journaling!
- Allow yourself plenty of time for setting up, but when you come to deciding time limits on goals, hustle yourself! I won’t go into depth on this, but you can read about Parkinson’s Law here https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/590604938619613175/. This is a fascinating theory, and one that makes complete sense to me. The gist is, aim to be productive, and don’t allow too much time for procrastination – Time Blocking helps with this.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t meet a certain goal one week, reflect on it, work out what you could have done better, and reset that goal in the coming week/s. We can’t be perfect 100% of the time.
- Track yourself. Keep a visual list or similar, to see where you’re at with your goals and how you’re using your time. If you tick a goal off, feel that achievement, celebrate it, and set another.
So, if you want to increase your productivity, keep better track of goals, and feel better about the way you work, give my Time Management strategies a go.
Do you think this could help you become more productive? Do you like the idea of Time Blocking, or breaking your goals down? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to look out for my quick tips, out now, and coming soon!
Post 1 in the Quick Tips series for 2020.
What is a goal, and why do I need one?
Whatever your dream, you either won’t get there, or it’ll take much longer to if you don’t set a firm goal with a date to achieve it by. How do I know this? I’m the Queen of Trial, Error, and Procrastination, or at least I was in the past. I struggled to even think one up, and if I did, I failed to set a date, and I didn’t write it down. Long story short, I pretty much pushed myself out to sea in a small boat with no way of steering toward where I wanted to go, if you get my drift.
This year I’ve changed my errant ways. Read on to see how I intend to correct the error of my 2019 ways in 2020.
“It’s no good dreaming about something if you’re not prepared to commit to it. Setting goals with dates, and writing them down is the key first step toward success.”
– Emily Larkins, Author.
So how do I choose a goal, and what’s the first step to achieving it?
- Learn from the past – look back on previous years. Did you achieve what you expected to? If so, how. If not, why not? Last year I set a time goal. I achieved it on average, but in hindsight, had I set a productivity goal, I would have progressed further with my writing, which is what I really wanted. Lesson learned the hard way.
- Brainstorm – what would you like to achieve? Think big and broad, and don’t limit yourself. Do you want to publish a regular blog, book or story? Would you like to set up a writing space, query agents, run a marathon, or start a business? Write down all your dreams.
- Estimate how long each idea could take. You don’t have to be exact. I grab three or four highlighters, assign each colour a time estimate (for example, one month, six months, one year, five years +) and get highlighting.
- Narrow down. Depending on how much time you can dedicate to your goal/s, you’ll find some will work for you now, whilst others might be best saved for later. It’s likely there’ll be a standout for you, an idea that sparks excitement. It’s easier to be motivated by something exciting rather than difficult. However, if there’s something urgent but you’re less passionate about, set an incentive (perhaps a smaller, more exciting goal) to reward yourself with. You could do both goals alongside each other, or keep the more exciting goal for a treat after the first. Make it manageable.
- This is the KEY FIRST STEP TO ACHIEVEMENT: Write your goal/s down and set a date to achieve it by. Do it somewhere you will see it every day, better yet, go for multiple places. I’ve got mine written on my desk, as well as in my planner. Make your goal/s visible.
OUT WITH THE OLD: IT'S TIME TO GET REAL!
Times are changing at home!
It’s hard to believe we’ve entered 2020. Not only has a new decade begun, but this year brings big things in the Larkins household – first and foremost, a fifth birthday. I’ll officially have two school girls, thus, hopefully, more time of the useful kind for writing. There will also be a fortieth (not mine yet!) in my house, and then there are the significant family birthdays that somehow stack up into the perfect storm for this year! Three 65ths, a 60th, a 30th, a 16th, and more. Lord help this introvert!
I met a goal, but...
Time to step it up.
Measuring time isn’t everything – goals are important – and to go along with that, big goals need to be broken down into steps, as does time. Rewarding myself with things that feed my writing is a sensible idea – like reading and making the most of the mobile library (because I avoid going to town wherever possible).
Making the most of the dedicated writing time I have (like JK says, protect your writing days!), will be essential. Knowing what to do with those grabbed moments (like when the toddler’s sleeping), will be useful too – visuals will help me. Rewards might too. I’ve activated my awareness, now I’ve got to follow through.
So, in short, the lady that ‘doesn’t do New Year Resolutions,’ has made some (cringe), but I’ve only ever avoided such things because I struggle with the idea of failure. It’s time to toss that silliness out and lift my working game. If I want to succeed as an author, I need to step up and do it otherwise the dream will be lost. What will keep me going is just that: The Dream.
Time to go out there and get on with it.
Coming up in 2020...
Free Flash Fiction Fridays - a new quick read every month, and best of all, they're FREE!
Short Story Sunday - every second month I’ll endeavour to publish a new short story (starting in February).
New-look prompts - on stunning new backgrounds, and searchable chronologically or by genre. The first are already up on Pinterest with five new prompts weekly.
Have you set goals for 2020? Do you want to learn about the discoveries I’ve made around goal setting and time management, follow Emily Larkins, Author on social media.
Please share your ideas and discoveries in comments.
Have a great month,
Great news! You can recognise your Thing too!
Oh how life throws it at you, and then you’re expected to hold it all together…
In short, this month has had the full scale of highs and lows. As a person that experiences mental health issues, it is difficult maintain a balance when I’m so focused on others. I’m prone to overlooking my mental health needs and easily miss the little clues that I might be on a slide. As many parents will know, when mama goes down, the rest of the family slip and slide too. The grumbles turn into frustration and meltdowns. In fact, that’s usually the clearest barometer I have as to how I’m doing – why are the kids so up and down at the moment? Oh, it’s because I am! So yeah, I need to do something about that!
Writing life: So, at what point do you consider yourself famous, or at least credible?
But here I am procrastinating again. My platform is one thing, but it doesn’t mean that much if I don’t actually WRITE SOMETHING! This month my greatest accomplishment (aside from the guest post invitation), is having entered all my plot data into the writing document for The Weight of Expectation. It’s been a slog, and at times an interesting one, but it now means I have to bite the bullet and get writing! What grates is that this is my third re-plan and re-write. It’s the gritty part of writing where you want to throw the lot out the window and set it on fire because it feels like the whole thing is crap. Actually, having just written that sentence, I now realise why I feel so resistant to it: it’s the gritty bit. It’s the hard the uphill slog before I get to the rollercoaster downhill of revision and editing. Yay! Eek! Damnit! LOL.
What it all means for this writer: Duh, it’s all connected, OR, how on earth am I only making this connection now?
Often when I’m finding life a bit much, I’ll crave writing time, which for me is focused quiet time, a time when I’m alone and responsible for no one but myself. If I’ve had an amazing writing session, or I feel that I’ve had a great day of work on my ‘writing business,’ I feel so much more able to provide for my family through myself, if you get what I mean. Honestly, how can it have taken me so long to make this link? How can I have trudged through my life without realising the importance of it all? All I can hope for right in this moment is that I’m helping someone else realise it within themselves too. You can’t do a great job looking after your family if you do a crappy job of giving yourself what you need to feel alive. So, find your ‘writing.’ Some would call it your ‘passion,’ but I’m more comfortable with calling it a ‘thing.’ Writing is my Thing. So, find the Thing that gives you inner nourishment. It might be physical activity, it might be meditation or gardening or painting or fixing things. Everyone is different, but it is possible for you to find the thing that works for you, and you don’t have to call it a passion.
A question for you:
How does your Thing impact on your physical, emotional, and working life?
Leave your answer in the comments
Until next month,
Join me on Pinterest to make use of the section I’ve added under ‘About the Author’ on self-care. I’ve added this in response to my low this month to remind myself of all the great tools I’ve been taught to maintain my mental health, and to collect new inspiration I find as I go. You can also follow me to benefit from all the hours I’ve spent scouring pins to give inspiration to your writing, creative business, and to see what I’m working on. My Pinterest account is a resource intended to get every writer into creative mode and is full of tips and tools to enhance your writing experience. Visit today!
On life in September:
Scroll through at the bottom (or watch every team!) - Big Miss’s performance from 0:2:20, Little Miss from 3:22:00. Enjoy!
or even better, on the Dunedin City website:
On writing in September...
I’m hoping spring will give me the motivation I need, and perhaps a tidy of my writing room. I’ll keep you posted!
Until then, happy writing and reading!
Welcome to my first and long-time-coming blog post!
Many of you will have read my news page on my website, which has been my hub for sharing about what’s been happening in my personal and writing worlds for over a year now.
My eldest is will turn seven at the beginning of September (how fast did that time go?!), and her school has been busy preparing for this term’s big events: Stars On Stage (performing arts through dance held at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre), and Polyfest 2019 (Maori and Pacifica cultural performances from Otago’s early-childhood, primary, and secondary schools). My big girl likes to get involved, and it seems these challenges are transforming her focus and self-awareness. The theme for their school’s Stars On Stage performance is ‘Everyday Superheroes,’ focusing on positive self-talk, and how our actions toward others make our world a better place. Having been lucky enough to catch a few rehearsals, I have to admit to a few tears of pride in hearing their own voices throughout the soundtrack. It can be a daunting experience for young children – performing on a real theatre stage before a real audience that sells out so fast you’ve got to have your game face on when buying tickets! My mother took on the challenging task of making costumes for the two junior classes – rainbow tutus for the girls (the boys get to wear awesome undies over their leggings), and superhero capes for all. Now she’s a particular woman, my mother. She takes care with each and every item, is neat, measures each time, double and triple checks, and has gone to great lengths to make sure each child has the perfect costume. I offered to help, and she accepted, and somehow our two methods (her careful and individual way, and my ‘how can I do multiple layers at once?’ try not to give Mum a heart attack with my more freeform approach) somehow blended together and we got it done! I can tell you, three hours in the kitchen spray-gluing twenty-odd red hearts onto the same number of yellow capes can test one’s husband’s patience (as well as quite giddy!), and cutting hundreds strips of tutu netting whilst bent over on the lounge floor is rather hard on the bod! The best part of the whole thing by far, though, was seeing our small, country school up there smashing it on stage like pros and overcoming a week of difficult challenges and events to fulfil their goal. My big girl was buzzing afterward, and I was filled with masses of parental pride, not just for her, or for her class or school, but for all the children participating. They all did themselves and their schools proud.
So that’s Stars on Stage down, and just Polyfest to go early in September. I’ll tell you how that goes next month. Both of my girls are in on this – Miss Seven will perform with her school at the week-long festival opening, and Miss Four will perform with her kindergarten later in the week. Boy this parenting gig can be busy at times, daunting too, but ever so rewarding!
I hope that by sharing my experiences and thoughts, other people out there, writers or not, can find some familiarity, comfort, humour, healing, learning, or inspiration useful to their own lives. If you have questions or (respectful) comments, please feel free to share!
Until next month,
I’ll start by saying that I LOVE writing prompts. They’re great little nuggets that get you thinking creatively. I use them in several different ways and that’s their other brilliance: they serve multiple purposes and you can use them in whatever way suits you!
I've created three short examples of how I get started with different kinds of prompts down the right side of this post - read, enjoy, or have a try at one yourself.
Read on to find out all about writing prompts and how I use them to enrich my writing experience, and to find links to free prompts and an exclusive printable I've put together just for you!
What are writing prompts?
Writing prompts (or story starters) are sentences or short paragraphs, snippets of dialogue, character or setting ideas, or even images, that kick-start the creative process.
The purpose of the prompt is to inspire ideas in the mind from which you can start writing. There are literally thousands on the internet (Pinterest is a quick and easy place to find and save them for future reference) and you can take or leave what you like.
Not all prompts work for all people. What sparks you to pick one up might be a non-starter for me, just as what I’m excited about might be bland to you. It all depends on our different life-experiences, interests, and sometimes just the time of day or frame of mind we’re in at that particular moment. Images might be a stronger inspiration for you, or text might be your thing. Give both a go and use what really lights you up.
An effective prompt will give just enough to ignite your imagination without leading all those who use it down too narrow a path. There should be a multitude of avenues open for exploration so we don't all end up writing subtle variations of essentially the same story.
In short, a writing prompt is the spark that ignites an inspirational fire for your creative process.
How I use writing prompts.
In the beginning (when I was young and just developing a taste for writing), I thought prompts were just for getting started on a story. That's how they were used in my high school writing class after all. Now I've discovered different ways my writing can benefit from prompts:
The main use for a prompt is to either begin a story (like a first line) or drive the idea for a story (perhaps a dramatic event), but over my years of writing, I’ve discovered they come in handy in other ways as I mentioned above. Writing prompts can lead in a myriad of directions, and it’s all driven by you. You may choose to write a poem from a prompt, a piece of flash fiction, a short story, or a full-blown 100,000 word epic. Just choose something that really grabs you.
If you’re stuck, try a prompt exercise. I like to challenge myself with ‘close your eyes and point,’ set a timer for say fifteen or thirty minutes, and push hard to create a captivating piece. Whatever prompt on screen that I've pointed to is the one I use. This is a fantastic exercise to challenge your creative mind and may even lead to a publishable piece (it has for me).
I'm a big fan of Pinterest, and not just for writing. I'll talk about this more in another post, but there are a few resource boards I've put together that will be of great use to you when looking for great writing prompts. Feel free to use my Pinterest boards Write! Prompts By Emily, or Write! Prompts (collected prompts sourced from across the internet) for this. You can find links to them both below). Write! Images for Inspiration contains thousands of images separated into useful sections to help you narrow down where you want to go. The beauty of Prompts By Emily is that they’re all numbered, so you can use a random number generator or pick a random number yourself before you open the board and let the universe decide!
So what next?
Now it’s time to go hunting for yourself. I’ve added 34 of my most popular prompts to this post as an exclusive printable PDF. Feel free to save it, share it, and use it as you like. Also, pop on over to Pinterest to see more fantastic prompts. My original prompts are on my Write! Prompts By Emily board. At the time of publishing this post it contains 245 little gems. The found prompts I love and have collected over time are filed under Write! Prompts. There are over 650 story starters there from a wide range of sources and covering a myriad of genres. Write! Imagery contains hundreds of inspiring images that are sure to capture the imagination.
Most importantly, have fun, be inspired, and get writing!
Click the file download below to claim your FREE printable pdf. It contains 34 of my most popular original prompts. This resource can't be found anywhere else, it's available exclusively for my wonderful readers!
If you’d like to know more about writing prompts, or if you’d like some more ideas for using them, let me know in the comments below. If you have favourite prompts that you think I’d like, or other ways of using prompts, please send them on through too. Pop on over to my Resources page for thousands of useful writing tools on a range of topics from getting started in writing, right through to publishing and marketing yourself. I’m all about sharing and helping other writers with their creative process, so please get in touch!
Wishing you all an inspired writing day!
Three quick examples using different prompt types...
A found prompt (from Pinterest):
I struggled up through the fog of sleep, thicker than usual, and with an unusually bitter taste in my mouth. When I sat up on the edge of the bare mattress my head spun like I'd been on the teacups ride at a themepark. I needed a drink, badly. An old sink with rusted taps hung against the wall. I splashed water on my face and started at the feel of short stubble on my cheeks. The hairs on my arms rose, a chill shot down my spine as I gazed down. These were the blunt-nailed, rough-skinned hands of a man, not my soft, immaculately manicured, genetically female
hands. I gripped the sink for balance. I looked into the mirror and I didn't see me. I saw a young man...
A dialogue prompt of my own creation:
I'd only been at the bar a matter of minutes before I turned down the first offer of a drink. The next followed close after, an older man taking the empty stool on my other side. He ordered himself a beer and another lemon, lime and vodka for me. He didn't ask if I wanted it; he created obligation by placing it next to my still half-full glass. As he leaned close his hand brushed my arm. Moist breath tainted with hops and onion foud my ear. I leaned away and slid the full glass toward him; a clear message.
"Oh, don't be like that, Love, it's a free drink! I'd be all over a free drink," a brow raised as his fingertips found my thigh, just below the hem of my skirt.
"As you can see, I'm perfectly capable of buying my own drink, and I don't plan to be 'all over' anything to do with you." I pushed his hand away.
"Sweetheart, I think you need to work on your manners," the hand slithered back.
I turned my face slowly toward him, my jaw set hard, fists balled in my lap to prevent his upward creep.
"I didn't think I was in the mood to kick anyone's arse tonight. All I wanted was a nice, quiet drink at the bar, but I swear, if you touch my leg one more time, I'm going to surprise myself, and you."
"Woah, hey now, Darlin, don't get your knickers in a knot, I'm just being friendly, offering my services..."
"Friendly? Try a sleazy, unwanted advance I've already rejected twice."
He opened his mouth to contradict me and I snapped. I whipped off my stool and grasped his hand, the thumb bent back hard toward his wrist...
From an image found on Pinterest:
Somewhere ahead I heard running water. Not the trickle of a stream, but the open echo of a larger source flowing with intent. The close tunnel of bush cracked open ahead of us, the light harsh after the dappled dimness of the trees. When I reached that opening I stopped dead in my tracks.
"You can't possibly expect me to cross that? You know I don't do bridges, any bridges, let alone that death-trap!"
My boyfriend leaned close, his warm hand on my shoulder. "It's perfectly safe. I scouted this walk out last week and had a good jump on it. Look, I'll show you now," he strode onto the planks with supreme trust and confidence. I could hardly even look at him when he bounced and swayed and held out a hand toward me. The vines creaked and twisted, matching the feel in my stomach. I no longer cared about the proposal I suspected he'd planned. He wouldn't get me to step on that bridge for anything, not even if my life depended on it.
Click the images below to access these awesome Pinterest boards for writing inspiration galore:
Hi, I'm Emily,
I'm an indie-published author and busy mum working hard to make my dreams come true.
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