Drawing a Blank? Prompts for Writers & Artists

This post is for you creative types out there. Whether you’re a writer or a visual artist, I’m sure you’ve cast about for inspiration a time or two in your life. This may sound familiar: you want to write/create, and have the time to do it, but nothing’s coming.  What do I want to say?  What do I want to make?  These questions can haunt you when you’re creatively frustrated.

I like to have some prompts and techniques in my arsenal – a small supply of jumping off points to get me going when my muse has exited the building.  Here are a few examples, things you might try the next time your well of inspiration has run dry.

For writers:

Pick up a trashy tabloid from the supermarket. Find the most preposterous story in the publication – whether it’s about celebrity Botox or alien landings on earth – and let it inspire a short story.  A variation of this is to read the Odd News on Yahoo!  Some of the stories are incredible.

The next time you’re in public, listen in to a nearby conversation for a snippet that you find interesting, and use that snippet to inspire a written piece.  Whether that conversational excerpt is a phrase, three sentences, or an entire life situation, you can use their truth to inspire your fiction!

For visual artists:

Choose one of your favorite elements from nature, and include it in your work.  Whether you’re fascinated with crow feathers, enjoy the slender, prickly needles of a pine tree, or love the perpetually smiling faces of bottlenose dolphins, somehow incorporate your selection into what you create.

Create a piece of art – whether it’s a collage, a drawing, or a photo – that visually represents a non-illustrated book you’ve read.  I used this technique a few years ago when I’d read The Road for my former book club.  I’m not a naturally grim or “dark” person, so I wondered if my artistic aesthetic would still shine through while I tried to render a tiny bit of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic Hell/world.  It was a satisfying challenge, and though it wasn’t my usual color palette or subject matter, I was pleased with the results.


(The weeds they forded fell to dust about them.)

Do you have any go-to prompts you’d like to share?  If you do, please post a comment.  Thanks!

Warm regards,

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  1. Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:02 am by Terry | Permalink

    I’d forgotten that piece you made after reading “The Road”. I just love your creativity, you come up with such interesting stuff. And thanks for the writing prompts – I’ve often felt inspired to write a short story based on the Shocking Secret Love Child of Hilary Clinton and Batboy, as reported in the Weekly World News.

  2. Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:40 am by Barbara | Permalink

    I lead a group of budding Paper Artists in our community. Each month I give them a “recipe” for a card design taken from THE JOY OF CARD MAKING, a Leisure Arts publication by Paper Crafts Magazine. The recipe includes a line drawing of the layout and several examples of cards following the particular design. When stuck for inspiration, they simply have to refer to their recipe book!

  3. Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm by Chuck Perez | Permalink

    Excellent little piece! I’m off to pick up a trashy tabloid right now.

  4. Posted September 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Thank you! You’re welcome! I would love to read a short story about the Shocking Secret Love Child of Hilary Clinton and Batboy! The Weekly World News – quality reporting! 😮

  5. Posted September 16, 2010 at 6:27 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Thank you, Chuck! I hope you enjoy the trashy tabloid and any inspiration that my come as a result of reading it!

  6. Posted September 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm by Melody | Permalink

    That’s fantastic, Barbara! A recipe book is a great idea for anyone, and especially for budding artists. Thank you for sharing…

  7. Posted September 24, 2010 at 7:56 am by Barb Cordill | Permalink

    Drawing a Blank? was an inspiration for my painting as well as my fiber purses.

  8. Posted September 25, 2010 at 9:50 am by Ellen | Permalink

    I love your jumping off points! It is fun to tickle your Muses’ senses~

  9. Posted September 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Thank you, Ellen. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! This seems to be a fairly popular post, so I’ll plan on posting more inspiration/prompt-related pieces in the future.

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  1. […] in September I published a post of prompts for writers and artists.  The post was popular among my readers, so here we go again!  Here are some more prompts that […]