Creative writing prompts are excellent tools for writers who are feeling uninspired or who simply want to tackle a new writing challenge. Today’s creative writing prompts focus on nature.
For centuries, writers have been composing poems that celebrate nature, stories that explore it, and essays that analyze it.
Nature is a huge source of inspiration for all creative people. You can find it heavily featured in film, television, art, and music.
Creative Writing Prompts
You can use these creative writing prompts in any way you choose. Sketch a scene, write a poem, draft a story, or compose an essay. The purpose of these prompts is to inspire you, so take the images they bring to your mind and run with them. And have fun!
A young girl and her mother walk to the edge of a field, kneel down in the grass, and plant a tree.
The protagonist wakes up in a seemingly endless field of wildflowers in full bloom with no idea how he or she got there.
Write a piece using the following image: a smashed flower on the sidewalk.
A family of five from a large, urban city decides to spend their one-week vacation camping.
An elderly couple traveling through the desert spend an evening stargazing and sharing memories of their lives.
A woman is working in her garden when she discovers an unusual egg.
Write a piece using the following image: a clearing deep in the woods where sunlight filters through the overhead lattice of tree leaves.
Some people are hiking in the woods when they are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of butterflies.
A person who lives in a metropolitan apartment connects with nature through the birds that come to the window.
Write a piece using the following image: an owl soaring through the night sky.
A well-to-do family from the city that has lost all their wealth except an old, run-down farmhouse in the country. They are forced to move into it and learn to live humbly.
Two adolescents, a sister and brother, are visiting their relatives’ farm and witness a sow giving birth.
Again, you can use these creative writing prompts to write anything at — poems, stories, songs, essays, blog posts, or just sit down and start freewriting.
Most writers are primarily concerned with the meaning of the words they choose. Is the language precise and accurate? Do the words provide the best connotation for what the writer is trying to communicate? Does the language show, rather than tell?
But poets take language a step further and push it into the realm of music. Poets care about meaning, precision, and accuracy as well as connotation and imagery. But they also care about how words sound, because musicality is a fundamental feature of poetry.
Poets use various elements of music to compose a poem. But because the written word is read and not heard, some elements of music aren’t available, like pitch and timbre.
Spoken word and performance (or slam) poetry are exceptions, because these works are designed to be heard and can incorporate musical elements that aren’t available to authors who write to be read. But most poets rely on a variety of literary devices and techniques to bring music to their work. Foremost among these are meter, sound, rhyme, repetition, and structure.
In poetry, meter is a syllabic pattern, which is determined by stressed and unstressed syllables. We’ll use bold to denote stressed syllables in the first line of “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich:
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grassgrows uphill
Let’s see what happens when we strip away the language, so we can see the raw meter of the line:
da-da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-da DUM DUM da-DUM
As you can see, the meter gives the poem rhythm, an underlying drumbeat. This demonstration shows why it’s important to review the syllables in the lines of your poetry to check the meter.
A song’s melody is determined by the sequence and length of notes played or sung by musicians. In poetry, melody is driven by the vowel and consonant sounds within the words of the poem. Consider this simple tune: la de-da, la de-da, la-la-la.
Now compare it to this: doo-da, doo-da, doo-de-da.
We don’t know the exact notes or melody just from reading these sounds, but there is an implied tune when we read them aloud. We can bring a little rhythm to the sounds as well by placing stress on select syllables:
LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA.
DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.
So how do we put it all together? By choosing words that match the melody and meter that we’re aiming for:
LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA.
On the dock, six o’clock, stomp on rock
DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.
Stooping, drooping, boorish king
You’ll notice that in addition to rhythm and meter, we introduced some rhymes.
The most common rhymes are perfect end rhymes–words that appear at the end of lines in poetry and that rhyme perfectly. Here’s an example from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
Nothing is going to get better, it’s not.
The words lot and not rhyme perfectly and are placed at the end of the first two lines, respectively. The placement of rhyme in a poem, coupled with its meter, can give the lines a sing-song quality. We can use different meters, sounds, and rhyme placements to pull different musical qualities into our poetry. Here’s an excerpt from “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood, which shows internal rhymes:
At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rockbreaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
Try reading these lines aloud to hear the inherent music contained within. Notice that the lines do not use a metrical pattern, but the layered internal rhymes give it rhythm:
away and breaks
hot and rock
bones, open, and flows
The word point appears three times in these five lines, but the repetition of this word is barely noticeable.
It’s worth noting that some poems don’t rhyme at all. Rhyme is important in poetry, but it’s actually a subset of a broader and even more important poetic device that is essential in both poetry and music: repetition. After all, rhyme is just repetition of sounds.
Repetition is the technique that really sums up how we make music out of words in poetry. All of the techniques mentioned above ultimately use repetition:
We create a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables — and a pattern is really just repetition.
We choose words and arrange them in such a way that they create a pseudo melody, which is achieved primarily by patterning (or repeating) certain sounds.
And we use rhyme — maybe end rhymes that ring like cymbals or internal rhymes that jingle like a tambourine. Rhymes are, by nature, repetition.
Layering the repetitions of these elements creates greater musical dynamics in a poem.
As you can see, a poem’s musicality really comes from the repetition of various elements within the lines and stanzas. And there are more elements that we can repeat. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in close proximity: prickly pears. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in close proximity: hat rack.
Some poems even use repetition in their very structure.
A poem’s music also comes from its structure — the length of lines and stanzas, placement of line and stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. All of these elements contribute to the poem’s structural sounds and therefore contribute to its musicality.
In music, a rest is an interval of silence. In poetry, these intervals are indicated by line breaks, stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. Rests are similar to the concept of white space in art.
For example, punctuation provides indicators for pausing (or resting) with commas and periods or inflections for questions and exclamations.
Do You Make Music with Poetry?
Plenty of excellent works of poetry aren’t especially musical. But musicality is an important aspect of poetry.
When life gets hectic, it’s impossible to get your creative writing done. Inspiration might be knocking, but the house is so full, you’re not sure you can open the door and let it in. How can you keep writing?
What if all you need is sixty seconds?
We all have responsibilities to fulfill and obligations to meet. We’ve got bills to pay, jobs to do, children to care for, and pets to play with. The lawn has to be mowed, garbage taken out, laundry done, dishes cleaned; the list goes on and on and on.
How Do We Find Time for Creative Writing?
Our writing happens when the muse is happily seducing our imaginations — when new worlds magically appear on the page and when fictional characters seem more real than some of the people we know in our day-to-day lives.
Creative writing is one of those pursuits that, for many people, is a dream. Like music, dance, acting, and art, it seems unattainable. Like athletics, entrepreneurship, and leadership, it seems meant only for the chosen few. Every day a writer is born. And every day, a writer gives up, overwhelmed by all the things in life that require time, energy, and attention.
Every day, another blog is abandoned, another novel shelved, another poem left unfinished. “I just don’t have time anymore,” a writer says, then deletes a file that was going to be the next great American novel, or crumples up a poem that would have inspired the next great world leader and throws it in the trash.
Don’t Give Up
What if J.K. Rowling had given up on her fantastical story? What if George Lucas had given up on his groundbreaking film? What if the Beatles hadn’t taken a chance on that new sound everyone was calling rock and roll? What kind of world would we be living in?
I almost gave up on my creative writing. For several years, I rarely wrote, other than the writing I had to do for work, which was technical or business writing. It was only by sheer luck that the company I worked for closed, forcing me to find some other path, and only by an odd combination of chance, drive, and a willingness to take risks did I return to my writing so that I could sit here years later amazed that now I make (part of) my living doing it.
And I’m willing to take the dream a little further, do a little more. Whether it’s this year, next year, or in five years, the dream is mine, and I’m not giving up on it.
Neither should you.
If you don’t have time to write, then make time.
You don’t have to sit down and write ten pages a day. In five minutes, you can jot down a few paragraphs. In fifteen, you can run off a page. Some days, you’ll get lucky and be able to steal an hour or two. Other days, you’ll have to crunch just to get a couple of minutes.
All that matters is that you keep writing, no matter what.
A Little Tiny Writing Exercise
A few years ago, I came across this website called One Word. It’s one of those sites you save and then forget about but rediscover every few months when you’re cleaning out your bookmarks. Every time I visit, I use it (because it’s interactive), and by the time I leave, which is maybe a minute and a half later, I feel strangely refreshed and revitalized.
One Word gives you just that — one word. Then it gives you something else. It gives you time. You get sixty seconds to write whatever you want, inspired by that single word, that gift.
It doesn’t sound like much, but every time I’ve visited that site and cranked out a minute’s worth of words, I’ve always felt good when I finished, like my right brain just got a little massage and the rest of my body is thanking me for it. And whether it’s been hours or days since I last took time to work on my own creative writing, One Word always reminds me that my passions need to have a priority in my life.
It’s a lot like the way I feel when I hear an inspiring, uplifting speech that motivates and moves me, except at this site, the words aren’t someone else’s; they’re mine. Well, except for that one.
Feed Your Soul
Here’s the thing about creativity: it is food for the soul. It’s the one thing that has a guaranteed return on investment. The more creativity you spend, the better you feel, the more creative you become, and more nourished is your spirit.
People like us need to feed the fire to keep the passion burning. Giving up on your creative writing isn’t an option because if we give up, we dry up. When you feed your right brain, your whole body benefits, and when you feed the fire that is your passion, your whole life and everyone in it reaps the rewards.
So make some time, take some time, to write. Go to OneWord.com and write for just a minute (surely you can spare sixty seconds — how about right now?) or close all those windows and open up your word processing software or turn off the computer and pick up your journal and just write.
Somebody once asked Warren Buffett about his secret to success. Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said,
Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will…
When I first found this quote of Buffett’s two years ago, something was wrong.
It was Dec. 2014. I’d found my dream job. Some days, I would be there, sitting at my dream job, and I would think, “My god what if I’m still here in 40 years? I don’t want to die like this…”
Something wasn’t right. I’d followed the prescription. Good grades. Leadership. Recommendations. College. Dream Job. I was a winner. I’d finished the race. Here I was in the land of dreams. But something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Every day, from my dream job desk, I looked out into their eyes. Empty, empty eyes.
There were no answers.
In January of 2015, I found Buffett’s quote. I decided to read. I was going to read and read and read and never stop until I got some damn answers.
I didn’t quite make 500 pages a day, but, in these last two years, I’ve read over 400 books cover to cover. That decision to start reading was one of the most important decisions in my life.
Books gave me the courage to travel. Books gave me the conviction to quit my job. Books gave me role models and heroes and meaning in a world where I had none.
I want to say reading 200 books a year is an amazing thing. But the truth is, it’s not. Anybody can do it.
All it takes is some simple math and the right tools.
1. Do not quit before you start
When average Joe hears the advice “Read 500 pages like this every day,” his snap reaction is to say, “No way! That’s impossible!”
Joe will then go on to make up reasons to justify his belief without doing any deep thinking at all. These might include “I’m too busy,” “I’m not smart enough,” or “Books just aren’t for me.”
But what if we go a little deeper? For example, what does it actually take to read 200 books a year? Two years ago, I stopped to do the simple math. Here’s what I found: Reading 200 books a year isn’t hard at all.
It’s just like Buffett says. Anyone can do it, but most people won’t.
2. Do the simple math
How much time does it take to read 200 books a year?
First, let’s look at two quick statistics:
The average American reads 200–400 words per minute (Since you’re on Medium, I’m going to assume you read 400 wpm like me)
Typical non-fiction books have ~50,000 words
Now, all we need are some quick calculations…
200 books * 50,000 words/book = 10 million words
10 million words/400 wpm = 25,000 minutes
25,000 minutes/60 = 417 hours
That’s all there is to it. To read 200 books, simply spend 417 hours a year reading.
I know, I know. If your brain is like mine, it probably saw “417 hours” and immediately tried to shut off. Most people only work 40 hours a week! How can we possibly read for 417 hours?
Don’t let your monkey brain turn you away yet. Let’s do a quick reframe for what 417 hours really means…
3. Find the time
Wowsers, 417 hours. That sure feels like a lot. But what does 417 hours really mean? Let’s try to get some more perspective.
Here’s how much time a single American spends on social media and TV in a year:
608 hours on social media
1642 hours on TV
Wow. That’s 2250 hours a year spent on TRASH. If those hours were spent reading instead, you could be reading over 1,000 books a year!
Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books: It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important…
All it takes to start reading a lot more is to take “empty time” spent Twitter-stalking celebrities or watching Desperate Housewives and convert some of it to reading time.
The theory is simple. It’s the execution that’s hard.
We all know reading is important. We all know we should do more of it. But we don’t. The main reason this happens is a failure to execute.
I’m not so perfect at it yet, but here are some tactics that have helped me get results.
I. Use environmental design
If you were quitting cocaine, would you keep it lying around the house? Of course not. Media is designed to be addictive. Moving away from media addiction can be as difficult as quitting drugs.
The biggest bang-for-buck changes here are environmental.
If you want to read, make sure (1) you remove all distractions from your environment and (2) you make books as easy to access as possible.
As an example, here’s my immediate environment:
I travel a lot. That doesn’t stop me from reading. The picture on the left is of my “bookshelf” in Thailand. I try to keep books everywhere so I can just pick one up and start reading.
The picture on the right is my smartphone desktop. Notice there are only two apps. One of them—the Kindle app—is for reading. The other is for habits… Which brings me to my next point.
II. Upload habits
Willpower is not a good tool for lifestyle change. It always fails you when you need it most. Instead of relying on strength of mind, build a fortress of habits—these are what will keep you resilient in tough times.
If you’re not familiar with habit science, my favorite book on the subject is Tynan’s Superhuman by Habit. It’s infinitely practical, and practical is all I care about.
Getting good at habit formation took me years. Many of the mistakes I made were avoidable. If I could go back, I’d find a habit coach. Here’s how I see it. One game-changing idea from a good book is worth thousands of dollars. If a coach helps you read ONE more good book a year, you already get your money’s worth.
When it comes to reading, be a jack of all trades, not a specialist.
If your goal is to read more, you can’t be picky about where you read or what mediums you use. I read paper books. I read on my phone. I listen to audiobooks. And I do these things everywhere—on park benches, in buses, in the toilet… Wherever I can.
Make your reading opportunistic. If you have a chance, take it. If you don’t have a chance, find one.
I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.
— Orhan Pamuk
If I hadn’t started reading, perhaps I’d still be at my dream job. Perhaps I’d still be at my desk, taking peeks at the clock and wondering if that was how I was going to die…
If you’re looking for answers, give reading a try. You may find much, much more than what you were looking for.
Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. I’m Carrie, aka MeezCarrie, of ReadingIsMySuperPower. And I LOVE STORY!! I love short stories. I love epic stories. I love in between sized stories. I love contemporary stories. Historical stories. Mystery stories. Amish stories. Even some speculative and YA stories.
But most of all? I love THE Story. The one that starts with the ultimate ‘once upon a time’ – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) – and ends with the best ‘happily ever after’ ever (Revelation 21:4)
Because we are all part of that Story.
Yes, we all have a story in progress that is our own life. But everyone we meet does, too. And all those stories-in-progress are part of the Big Story that God is telling. Let me tell you – that is SO exciting to me!
I’m one of the new Seekerville bloggers, but I’m not seeking publication. I’m content to read other people’s stories and talk (incessantly) about them. But that up there? What I just said about being part of God’s Story?
That means I’m sorta like all the rest of y’all.
In a small way.
Ok.. not at all the same.
BUT… I am part of the greatest Story in the world. And so are you. That’s pretty stinkin’ incredible. The Author and Finisher of my Faith is telling a Story about me and about you. And He has promised to keep writing it until it’s completed – not when I die or when you die, but until the day Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)
Back in November, I had the pinch-me privilege of speaking with Cynthia Ruchti at the Art of Writing Conference just ahead of the 2017 Christy Awards gala. We talked about the darts of author discouragement and how to dodge them. After our session, a woman came up to me in tears. She whispered, “I didn’t know anybody else knew how I feel.” And then we both were in tears lol!
Author friends – can I encourage you a moment? You’re not alone. Writing may be a solitary career but the discouragements are consistent. Fear of rejection. The reality of rejection. Fear of the possibility of a bad review. The depths of despair over an actual bad review. Your family doesn’t take you seriously. Your friends don’t take you seriously. It doesn’t pay the bills. It barely pays for coffee.
Oh… wait… I was supposed to be encouraging you. LOL.
I really was headed here, I promise.
You’re not alone. And you’re not left defenseless.
God has given you each other, and He has given you His Word. Community and grace wrapped up in a safe place like Seekerville.
You want to know another secret? YOUR STORY MATTERS.
Yep. I went there: all caps.
Because it’s so incredibly true and so incredibly important to understand.
The story you’re writing matters.
That story you’ve agonized over. The one that’s kept you up all hours of the night. The one that may or may not currently be taunting you with a blinking cursor of ‘I got nothing’. It matters. Even if no one else ever reads it. Even if no agent or publishing house wants it. Even if your beta readers and editors send it back with more tracked changes than you had words to start with.
Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.
But you know what? The story that God is writing in you and through you matters most of all. He is making you more like Jesus every day. He knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb, and He had already had plans for your life. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1) He created you as a writer before you even had fully developed hands to hold a pen or tap away on a keyboard. Even better – He knew your role in His Story before you ever made your grand arrival on planet Earth. And that story matters on a scale we can’t even begin to imagine.
Maybe you’re like me and the only thing you write is a blog post… or a grocery list. Your story matters too. God placed you in His Story at just the right time and in just the right place so that you would come to know Him (Acts 17). He pursued you with an everlasting love and has engraved you on the palm of His hand. (Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 49). Think about that for a second – you matter so much to the God of the Universe that those nail-scarred Hands have your name on them.
Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.
I know good stories. I’m surrounded by them, à la the Dr. Seuss method of decorating. All the crannies, all the nooks, etc. This Big Story that God is telling is a good story. It’s the best story. It’s the standard by which all other stories are measured (whether they realize it or not). It’s also a true story. This fairy-tale to beat all fairy-tales – a prince on a white horse come to vanquish the enemy and rescue his bride – that’s OUR story (Revelation 19).
So when you’re tempted to throw in the towel and give up on your story – the one you’re writing or the one you’re living – remember this:
Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.
By Carrie Schmidt
It can feel impossible to know where to start writing.
We can become paralyzed by fear, worrying our words will offend or bore readers, or worse, that we’ll never have any readers at all.
If we jump in, we might quickly find ourselves nose-deep in all the complications of story writing, tangled in plot, character development, and dialogue tags. Or a Google search might drown us in writing advice, suddenly flinging us into an identity crisis — who are we, why do we write? Are we plotters or pantsers? How can we even know the difference? *hides under desk*
This isn’t just a problem for newbies, either.
The Story of a Perfectionist Writer
Despite having been a published nonfiction writer for over a decade, when I wanted to branch into fiction writing, I had no idea where or how to start.
As a planner, it made sense to me to begin with an outline. I started there, but pretty soon I became bogged down in perfectionism, trying to think the whole story out before beginning to write it. The story screeched to a halt.
I’d heard many stories are character led, whatever that meant, so I created a character; a gruff, bristly cowboy, leaning up against a barn, with a cigarette smouldering between his thick fingers. Unfortunately for him, that was all the depth I could give him without the context of a story. Years later, when I’d think of him, he’d still be standing there, smoking that same cigarette, isolated and alone without a plot to live in. Poor guy.
My solitary efforts yielded nothing, so I read. And researched. And listened to podcasts and watched videos. (A perfectionist’s fancy way of procrastinating.) In the swirl of information, the identity crisis hit. Who was I? Why did I want to write fiction? Was the ability inborn, or could I learn it?
Pretty soon I was convinced fiction writing was too complicated for me.
The Advice That Transformed My Writing
Finally I invited my friend for coffee and to beg for advice. She’s an avid fiction author who pumps out at least one book a year and has thirty titles to her credit, so I knew she’d have some excellent insight.
“How on earth am I supposed to do this??” I asked her. “How does one create a story?” I leaned in, eager for the key to my fiction-writing success.
She shrugged. “You just write it.” She said it matter-of-factly, like it was as obvious. To me, it was obviously wrong. That’s what I’d been trying to do, and it wasn’t working.
“Just write it? I can’t do that. I need a plan.”
“No you don’t. I start most stories without a plan. As I write, the story comes.”
“What?! That’s insane!”
She shrugged again. “You might end up writing a whole lot of crap, but if you keep going, you find the good stuff.”
Want to write a story? Just write it. It won’t be perfect, but give yourself permission to write crap.
I didn’t buy it, but let the advice percolate. Writing was too difficult a task to risk “writing crap.” I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Then, in the book Outlining Your Novel, K.M. Weiland proposed two words that changed my life: “What if?” I realized finding the answer would necessitate a lot of dead-end scenarios. I would have to jot down a lot of crummy ideas and terrible plots before I came up with the best one. I would have to allow those incomplete, embryonic, never-to-see-the-light-of-day ideas out onto paper.
That’s when I realized my friend’s advice was true. I would have to “just write it.”
That morning, I sat to write a fiction piece. Anything. It didn’t matter. I was just going to make it up on the spot. Even if it was crap, I decided, it would at least blunt the perfectionism that had held me back.
Inspired by a painting, I wrote one line. Then another. I kept adding one after the other without knowing anything about who was in the story or why. It was a freeing exercise to “just write.” What resulted was a mediocre story that had a reasonable plot and semi-inspiring conclusion.
3 Lessons About Perfectionism From a Writer Who “Just Wrote”
The experience taught me three things:
1. Giving yourself permission to write total crap quiets perfectionism
Perfectionism isn’t necessarily bad. In its healthy state, it can drive us to achieve goals and feel a deep sense of satisfaction as a result. In its unhealthy state, though, it can freeze us with fear or cripple us with self-criticism. That’s the version we need to break free from.
It starts with giving ourselves permission to not be perfect — to write crap.
With that permission firmly in place, it becomes this decision to conduct an experiment, the results of which do not define us or our abilities.
This one, highly effective, low-risk decision can make an effective path through perfectionism. It sure did for me.
2. Permission to write crap unlocks creativity
Creativity is a cautious, tender creature. It hides from anything that might kill it — like the pressure we put on it to be something it isn’t.
However, with the decision to cast aside high-achievement and simply run an experiment, suddenly the pressure to write the next Harry Potter dissipates, and we’re free to let whatever we think of flow onto that blank page.
Permission to write crap unlocks creativity.
“It’s about getting that critic out of the way and immersing yourself in a flow of pure creativity. Do that, and you’re doing well.” Sean Platt, Write, Publish, Repeat
3. To grow in the craft of writing, one must write
Research, reading, thinking, or “letting it percolate” do not a book write. They’re necessary to the process of writing, but they are not the only elements.
Knowing and doing are two different things — it’s the difference between knowledge and experience. One can become knowledgeable about driving by reading books, interviewing the best drivers and car manufacturers, and studying related stats.
When they get in the car, though, the realities of the experience come to life. Hundreds of traffic signs, lights, pedestrians, and flashing ads all pull attention from what seemed like a simple task. Understanding is born.
Sometimes, perfectionism is just a cover for procrastination.
The Secret to Writing Success
Here it is: At some point, every single writer must finally follow these three steps: 1) Place butt on chair. 2) Place fingers on writing apparatus. 3) Write words.
Give yourself permission to do just that, and who knows what stories you’ll create?
What strategies do you use to overcome perfectionism in writing?Let us know in the comments.
When I first started writing, it was just me, a ninety-nine cent pen, and a cheap spiral-bound notebook. Using those tools, I wrote dozens of poems, stories, and journal entries.
These days, I’m surrounded by far more sophisticated writing tools: fancy pens and journals, a computer with writing software, a library of writing resources, and the Internet.
My writing has come a long way since I was a thirteen-year-old curled up on the floor with a pen, a notebook, and my imagination. Certainly, experience and studying did a lot to help me write better, but did these newfangled tools also improve my writing?
Yes and no.
I think a few writing tools do help us write better, but for the most part, tools make writing easier or more comfortable. They don’t improve our writing, but they do improve our writing process.
For a closer look at the tools that are available to us, and their benefits, I’d like to present a few excerpts from my book, 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. These excerpts are from “Chapter 8: Tools and Resources.”
“It’s best to have your tools with you.” – Stephen King
Where would we writers be without our tools and resources? From cheap pens and notebooks to expensive word-processing software, from thick reference books to online databases packed with facts and information, our tools and resources are both bane and boon. Love them or hate them, one thing is certain: if you’re a writer, you need them.
When we are striving to improve our writing, the act of writing and all the skills that go into craftsmanship are just one piece of the puzzle. We need a place to write, tools to write with, writing references to consult, and research material to cite.
Every writer will develop personal preferences—a favorite writing spot, preferred writing instruments, and a host of trusty resources. These things might not directly improve your writing, but they will make your experience and your process more enjoyable and more efficient.
When you are fully equipped with the writing tools and resources you need to get your job done, you’ll do your job better.
Your Writing Tools
Writers’ tools may seem obvious: a pen, notebook, computer, and writing software like Microsoft Word are the basics.
But technology has opened up a wider range of tools that we can use, and not all of them are designed just for writing.
Lots of modern products cater to personal preferences. You might prefer a thick pen with a sturdy grip and steady ink flow, or maybe you’d rather work with disposable pens so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Maybe an expensive notebook with archival-quality paper forces you to put more thought into your writing, or perhaps you’re more comfortable with a cheap notebook so you don’t have to worry about making mistakes or messing up an expensive blank book.
Your preferences might be based on your budget or your personal taste. As with most things we do as writers, you have to find which writing tools work best for you.
Here are some basic tools that most writers use:
Pens: Choices include ball-point pens, fountain pens, pencils, highlighters, and markers. I like to keep a few red pens around for editing.
Notebooks: Blank books, journals, and notebooks come in various sizes and with a range of quality in the paper. You can also get hardcover or softcover, spiral or perfect bound, blank pages or lined pages.
Office supplies: You might need supplies to help you organize your writing notes and materials: binders, file folders, labels, tab dividers, staplers or paper clips, and binder clips (for securing large manuscripts) are just a few examples of office supplies that might come in handy.
Hardware: The typewriter gave way to the computer. Now we also use tablets, smart phones, and e-readers.
Software: Microsoft Word is the industry standard, but Scrivener is the writing software preferred by most of today’s authors. Other popular software includes Pages (by Apple), text programs (like TextEdit or Notepad) and online, cloud-based software such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs).
Apps: There’s a huge range of apps for writers, including dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias, e-books, voice-to-text, and recording apps, plus apps for ideas and inspiration. One of my favorite apps is Scapple, a brainstorming app created by Literature and Latte, makers of Scrivener.
Whatever tools you use, if you’re writing electronically (and you probably are, otherwise you will eventually), make sure you have a backup system in place. An external hard drive is ideal for backups and there are online backup systems you can purchase as well. Ideally, you’ll store backups off-site (keep a backup at a friend’s house or store it online).
Be judicious when shopping for your tools. One great way to preview various writing tools is to shop online. You can read reviews by other customers and get a sense of the product’s features and flaws. It’s also easier to do price comparisons online.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself about collecting tools. Some people will use their lack of the proper tools as an excuse not to write (I can’t afford this expensive software right now, so I can’t start my novel). All you need to get started is a pen and notebook. You probably already have access to a computer. Remember that, ultimately, writing is about getting the words down. The tools we collect just make the process easier or more comfortable.
What are some of your favorite writing tools? Do the tools you use improve your writing or make your writing process easier? Do they help you write better?
It always seem like there are too many writing ideas or not enough.
When you don’t have time to write, ideas come hurtling out of nowhere. Sometimes they come so fast, you can’t even write them all down. But when you sit down, stretch your fingers, and lean over your keyboard to start typing, nothing happens. Where did all those ideas go?
Chances are, you’re not really out of ideas; you’re just not in the mood to write. Sometimes, that’s okay. Take a break and do something else. Give yourself a day off. But other times, you need to dig your heels in, make those ideas flow, and get busy writing.
Where to Find Story Writing Ideas
Luckily, ideas for writing a story are all around you. As long as you can force yourself to get focused, you should easily be able to overcome a bout of writer’s block.