writing prompts for getting started

Though every step toward a desire counts, the first step is special. A first step, by definition, involves heading somewhere different. And no matter what we’re writing, writing it has the potential to change things. So experiencing a degree of performance pressure, getting stuck in the pause before initiating movement and change, is understandable. Beginnings are momentous.

“Creativity is a type of learning process
where the teacher and pupil
are located in the same individual.”
(often attributed to) Arthur Koestler

A trick about beginnings is to be a beginner. Rather than beginning to write from a place of already knowing everything you’ll be writing about, try beginning to write as a student, learning as you go.

When entered willingly, the space where learning and teaching coexist in the same person has the power to pull creativity out of thin air. Begin simply, by noticing what you don’t know (“I don’t know how to organize my thoughts” or “I don’t know where this will lead”), then experiment, trying out different things to teach yourself what you need to know. Learn as you go. Teach as you learn.

This method of creating has been around since Grog burnt himself then taught Glug how to make a fire without burning himself. It’s been around for so long because it works.

Begin, learn, teach. Begin, learn, teach. Begin, learn, teach.

Here are a few prompts to help with beginning to write and create as a student:

  • What sparked your desire to write this?
  • Why do you care about this?
  • Who do you want to care about this?
  • What questions are you beginning with?
  • List three things you know about this.
  • List three things you don’t know about this but wish you did.
  • What evidence is there that you know something about this?
  • If you assume wisdom comes through you, what does it want to say?
  • If a bright-eyed, eager student sat beside you, what would you want to tell them?
  • How have you learned about this topic you want to write about?
  • What do you want to change because of your writing?
  • What do you imagine the last step, finishing, will feel like?


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2 comments to writing prompts for getting started

  • Melissa Frykman-Thieme

    Thanks Grace. Once more, out of the boat and into the dark, goodbye Melissa, Hello shark!! My Shark muse is always awaiting me, just below the surface, lurking, teeth shined up and looking sharp. I unconsciously engineer run ins with danger and drama, looking for the ways and means to excite my neurons, to make my writers parts tingle. At all other times, I’m pretty calm and rock ‘o Gibraltar-like.
    You ever heard of “noodling”? It’s a method of fishing (or just plain fish teasing) that invovles the fisherwoman getting down on her belly next to the water, and attracting fish with her pale worm-like fingers. The fish come up near the surface and beg to be tickled, or noodled, and while so noodled, the fisherwoman catches the fish by hooking her fingers through the gills of the fish, and hoist ’em out. Some more moral and kind fisherwomen just tickle the fish, and stop before any harm is done, or any mental trauma has occurred.
    Lately, I’ve been noodling shark muses. Pretty brave, eh?

    • Wow. I can picture that fisherwoman doing her thing, maybe in the cool rain near a Pacific Northwestern village. This idea of noodling intrigues as a way to draw the muse in and begin (and brave you, for daring to noodle shark muses!). Basically, be the bait and prepare to receive company.

      This reminds me of “moodling,” which Brenda Ueland writes about in her book If You Want to Write: “So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”