Writing Resources: The Pocket Muse

the pocket muse

A handy little source of inspiration for writing

We writers can’t be inspired every day.

Sometimes we get burned out. Other times, we have ideas but they just don’t seem appealing at the moment when we sit down to write. Sometimes we need to take a break from a writing project and spend a little time on shorter projects, which can recharge our creativity. Other times, we’re just stuck in a writing slump.

That’s when keeping a little stockpile of writing ideas and inspiration inspiration is a good idea.

The Pocket Muse

I received my copy of The Pocket Muse as a gift a few years ago. Unfortunately, it sat on my bookshelf for far too long. But recently, I cracked it open and started perusing it. And I found it absolutely delightful.

It’s a lovely mashup of prompts, writing tips, and project starters. There are also photos to help you generate ideas. Plus, the author shares her own writing experiences, insights, and anecdotes in short essays throughout the book.

Each page contains a prompt, image, idea, quote, writing exercise, or bit of wisdom. This book is a treasure trove for writers.

One of my favorite pages offers a list of word prompts. It’s labeled as a list of verbs: racket, snug, green, spoon, boggle, and snake. The list is followed by a note pointing out that all these words are not verbs, then offers the following suggestions:

Jeremy is racketing across the lawn as we speak!
Can you hear earthworms snugging out of the ground as the sun greens the trees?

Verbs are sometimes a matter of opinion.

I just love that! If we writers don’t make language fun, who will?

Here are a few more goodies from The Pocket Muse:

  • A photo of two hippos includes a caption that says it’s your job to figure out how these two hippos ended up in a school parking lot.
  • “I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.” – Samuel Johnson
  • And this golden bit of advice about trying to get published before you’ve mastered the craft: “Respect your apprenticeship.”

This book is packed with ideas and inspiration. But it also contains plenty of wisdom and offers practical tips. For example, there is a list of classic story elements: setup, complication, rising action, meanwhile, climax, and denouement coupled with examples from the classic tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It’s an excellent and simple example of major movements and elements that need to be present in any good piece of fiction.

The Pocket Muse is an ideal gift for any writer (including yourself). It’s a lovely little hardcover, and is great for your desk since it is both decorative and useful. When you need a break, are stuck in a rut, or just need something to pass a few minutes, this book will be a treat. You can flip through it, open it to some random page, or read through it from cover to cover. Any which way, you win!

And of course, this book will help you keep writing.

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

A Selection of Journal Prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts

journal prompts

Journal prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts.

Today’s journal prompts are taken from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which is filled with inspiration for writers and includes prompts for writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

The journal prompts in the book are found in the creative nonfiction section. They urge you to think about your personal experiences, beliefs, and ideas and then write about them. Some of these prompts could be used to write personal essays. They might even inspire an idea for a memoir, a personal blog, or a weekly column.

All the journal prompts are designed to spark ideas for personal writing. If you get an idea that is different from the prompt, go with it. Change the prompts, combine them, and use them in whatever way you see fit.

10 Journal Prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts

  1. Write about someone you admire from afar—a public figure or celebrity.
  2. Have you ever felt like you were meant for something, that some event or moment in your life was fated? Have you ever felt an inexplicable call to do something? Where do you think this feeling comes from? Write about it.
  3. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Whom have you loved and lost?
  4. Tell the story of the first time you earned your own money.
  5. Sometimes, we use common sense and do the right thing or make the best choice. But sometimes, we learn lessons the hard way. Write about a time in your life when you made the wrong choice and learned a lesson the hard way.
  6. Many of us have experienced a terrifying moment in which we thought we were going to die. If you’ve ever experienced a moment like that, write about it.
  7. Think of something you wish you were good at but aren’t. Write a narrative about your attempts to do this thing and how you coped with failure.
  8. Write about your earliest memory. Include as much detail as you can remember.
  9. Write about the happiest day of your life.
  10. Think back to the first time you had a best friend. Tell the story of your friendship.

Did any of these journal prompts inspire you to write? Which one? Did you write in your journal, or were you inspired to write something else? Where do you get your best creative inspiration? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

Creative Writing Prompts

How to Prioritize Your Writing Ideas

writing ideas

Which of your writing ideas is leading the pack?

There are always too many writing ideas or not enough of them.

Some days, we writers are so overwhelmed with ideas, it’s impossible to get anything done. Should you work on your novel? That essay you’re writing for your favorite magazine? You have an original premise for a short story. And you feel a poem coming on.

Other days, we just can’t find any inspiration.

Prioritizing Your Writing Ideas

Prioritizing your writing ideas will help you stay focused on projects you’ve already started. Too often, we writers run around chasing one idea after another, never finishing the big projects we’ve begun. A priority list that we follow with due diligence will encourage us to finish what we’ve started. And when inspiration is fleeting, we can turn to our priority list and it will remind us that we have plenty of ideas ready and waiting to be explored.

It’s a good idea to keep track of all your ideas, and most writers are already adept at this. We jot our ideas down in our notebooks. We litter our work areas with ideas scrawled on sticky notes. We scrawl concepts on random bits of scrap paper and cocktail napkins. You probably already have a boatload of projects incubating all around you. Now, you just need to get them in order.

Keeping a master list of projects (including your works-in-progress and future project ideas) is a good way to start prioritizing. Electronic lists work well because you can move things around. Note cards are also good organizational tools because you can spread them out, color code them by form, genre, or deadline, and keep them in a box or bound them with a rubber band for easy storage and access.

How to Prioritize Your Writing Ideas

Before you prioritize your writing ideas, create a neat and manageable list using a spreadsheet, word processing document, or set of note cards. Then you can starting putting things in order.

1. Finish What You’ve Started

You’re three chapters into a novel when you come up with a breakthrough story idea for another novel. So you promptly shove your current project to the back burner and move on to the next idea. This is no way to get things done. Make a list of all your unfinished projects — the ones you fully intend on completing. Tackle those first. Add any new ideas to the bottom of the list and refrain from working on your new ideas until you’ve wrapped up the old ones.

2. Do it for Money

I’m not a big believer in making art just for the money, but we all have to eat. If you have projects that will ensure there is food on the table and a roof over your head, then get to those first. Business before pleasure, my friends.

3. Do it for Love

Nothing carries a creative project like passion. If you have tons of writing ideas and aren’t sure which one to focus on first, follow your heart. If you’ve finished your other projects and are eating well, then do what you love.

4. Little Things Come First

When you have a huge list, it can help to work through the little projects first — the ones that will only take a few hours or a couple of days. This is a great way to shorten your project list and get a lot done in a short amount of time. But take care — little projects have a way of popping up all over the place. Make sure you don’t let small projects keep piling up in front of your bigger projects.

5. Even Distribution

If you have big projects, little projects, ongoing projects, and one-time projects, short-term and long-term projects, try prioritizing one of each. In other words, write a poem, then a short story, then an essay, then start that novel, then go back to your poetry. You can go around and around. You’ll chip away at everything a little more slowly, but you’ll be well rounded for your efforts.

How Many Writing Ideas Are You Juggling?

Do you have more writing ideas than you know what to do with? Are you short on time or not sure what to tackle first? Try organizing your projects into a list and then prioritize them using these five methods for putting your projects in order. Keep adding all your new writing ideas to your list, but more importantly, keep writing.

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

Are You Dedicated to Better Writing?

better writing

Better writing starts with you.

Today’s post is an edited excerpt from the introduction to 10 Core Practices for Better Writing, a book that aims to impart best practices in the craft of writing.

“When I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.” — Anne Sexton

Words. They have the power to captivate the imagination, impart knowledge, express feelings, and share ideas. They are magical, and they are powerful.

A writer makes things out of words: sentences and paragraphs, essays and articles, books, poems, stories, and scripts. We use writing to create, communicate, share, and express ourselves. We use it to connect with people.

Writing is one of the most useful skills a person can possess. Think about how stories, speeches, films, and books have impacted society and culture, how they have shaped people’s thoughts and beliefs, and you’ll get an inkling of just how influential writing can be.

Everybody learns how to write. We go to school, learn our letters, practice reading, and eventually, we can put words on the page.

We aren’t born writers; we become writers.

We all have to work at building and growing our writing abilities. Whether writing is a hobby or a career, if you want to be good at it, you have to make a commitment to it.

Good writing requires an extensive set of skills. We have to organize our thoughts and ideas, express them clearly, and compose sentences that are correct and make sense.

Great writing requires a whole lot more. An expert writer understands language, syntax, and context. A firm grasp on grammar and orthography is essential. A vast vocabulary, a talent for puns, and a knack for storytelling are all skills that benefit any writer.

There’s a lot to learn, and in order to establish the skills that every successful writer needs, we must develop lifelong writing habits. We must live the writing life.

It won’t happen overnight, and you might have to make some sacrifices, but by managing your time wisely and investing in yourself and your writing, you’ll develop good habits and core practices that lead to better writing.

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

10 Core Practices for Better Writing is for people who are ready to commit to producing better writing.

It’s not a learn-how-to-write-overnight or write-a-best-selling-novel-in-thirty-days book. It won’t fill your head with story ideas. It won’t drill down into the nitty-gritty of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It won’t tell you how to land an agent or get a publishing deal, nor will it walk you through the steps of self-publishing or marketing your writing. It’s not a book about getting rich or famous.

This is the book you read before doing all that. It’s for becoming the best writer you can be.

The concepts covered in this book are beneficial for all writers. These are the core practices upon which you can build to make your writing good, then great. Think of the practices contained in 10 Core Practices for Better Writing as seeds; if you plant them, water them, and nourish them, they will flourish and you will continually grow as a writer. If you make the time and put in the effort to adopt these practices, your writing will blossom.

Why I Wrote 10 Core Practices for Better Writing

When I started my blog, Writing Forward, in 2007, I chose writing as the topic because I was passionate about writing and it’s the thing I’m best at doing. I had no idea that the site would help so many writers, that teachers would use it in their classrooms, or that I’d end up coaching other writers. Other than writing something I’m personally proud of, helping other writers has been the most rewarding aspect of my career.

I wrote 10 Core Practices for Better Writing because I love working with other writers and helping them be the best writers they can be. I especially love helping young, new, and beginning writers. To see writers develop, to see their work improve with time and effort, and to contribute to their development is incredibly fulfilling.

What separates the great writers from the mediocre ones is not luck or talent. It’s grit and determination and a lot of hard work. If you want to write well, put in the time and eventually you’ll become a master.

If you love to write, then the work will oftentimes be enjoyable. But there will also be times when the work is hard or frustrating. Sometimes it might even seem impossible.

I encourage you to push through those times when writing doesn’t come easily, when ideas aren’t readily available, and when words and sentences refuse to flow and the whole process becomes maddening.

Always remember that the ends make the means worthwhile.

I hope this book will inspire you to make a conscious commitment to strive for better writing every day.

Keep writing!

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

10 Reasons Writers Should Learn Good Grammar

good grammar

Should you learn good grammar?

Every writer I know has a different perspective on just how good grammar needs to be.

Some are sticklers who insist on adhering to the highest standards of the literary order. Others are comfortable taking creative liberties and believe that breaking the rules is an art unto itself and a practice that should be embraced.

Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. I believe that a writer who is dedicated to the craft will take the time and invest the energy required to master the most basic tools, grammar being foremost among them. But I also believe there are situations in which it’s best to break the rules — as long as you know which rules you’re breaking and why.

Too many times I’ve heard aspiring writers shrug off good grammar, saying they’d rather focus on plot or character, they’d prefer to use a natural, unlearned approach to keep the writing raw, or they will simply hire an editor to do the dirty work.

I have a hard time buying into those lines of reasoning. Refusing to bother with grammar is just plain lazy, especially for writers who yearn to be more than hobbyists.

10 Good Reasons to Pursue Good Grammar

Why should writers should embrace grammar rather than make excuses for ignoring it? Here are ten reasons why good grammar should be a central pursuit in your writing efforts:

1. Readability

If your work is peppered with grammatical mistakes and typos, your readers are going to have a hard time trudging through it. Nothing is more distracting than being yanked out of a good story because a word is misspelled or a punctuation mark is misplaced. You should always respect your readers enough to deliver a product that is enjoyable and easy to use.

2. Communication

Some musicians learn to play by ear and never bother to learn how to read music. Many of them don’t even know which notes and chords they’re playing, even though they can play a full repertoire of recognizable songs and probably a few of their own. But get them in a room with other musicians and they’ll quickly become isolated. You can’t engage with others in your profession if you don’t speak the language of your industry. Good luck talking shop with writers and editors if you don’t know the parts of speech, the names of punctuation marks, and all the other components of language and writing that are related to good grammar.

3. Getting Published

How will you get that short story, essay, or blog post published if you don’t know the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Sure, some managing editors will go over your work and clean it up for you, but most reputable publishers have enough submissions that they can toss grammatically weak work into the trash without thinking twice.

4. Working with an Editor

I love it when writers say they can just hire an editor. This goes back to communication. If you can’t talk shop with other writers, you certainly won’t be able to converse intelligently about your work and its flaws with a professional editor. How will you respond to feedback and revision suggestions or requests when you don’t know what the heck the editor is talking about? Remember, it’s your work. Ultimately, the final version is your call and you won’t be able to approve it if you’re clueless about what’s wrong with it.

5. Saving Money

Speaking of hiring an editor, you should know that editors will only go so far when correcting a manuscript. It’s unseemly to return work to a writer that is solid red with markups. Most freelance editors and proofreaders have a limit to how much they will mark up any given text, so the more grammar mistakes there are, the more surface work the editor will have to do. That means she won’t be able to get into the nitty gritty and make significant changes that take your work from average to superior because she’s breaking a sweat just trying to make it readable.

6. Invest in Yourself

Learning grammar is a way to invest in yourself. You don’t need anything more than a couple of good writing resources and a willingness to take the time necessary to hone your skills. In the beginning, it might be a drag, but eventually, all those grammar rules will become second nature and you will have become a first-rate writer.

7. Respectability, Credibility, and Authority

As a first-rate writer who has mastered good grammar, you will gain respect, credibility, and authority among your peers. People will take you seriously and regard you as a person who is committed to the craft of writing, not just some hack trying to string words together in a haphazard manner.

8. Better Writing All Around

When you’ve taken the time to learn grammar, it becomes second nature. As you write, the words and punctuation marks come naturally because you know what you’re doing; you’ve studied the rules and put in plenty of practice. That means you can focus more of your attention on other aspects of your work, like structure, context, and imagery (to name a few). This leads to better writing all around.

9. Self-Awareness

Some people don’t have it. They charge through life completely unaware of themselves or the people around them. But most of us possess some sense of self. What sense of self can you have as a writer who doesn’t know proper grammar? That’s like being a carpenter who doesn’t know what a hammer and nails are. It’s almost indecent.

10. There’s Only One Reason to Abstain from Good Grammar

There is really only one reason to avoid learning grammar: you’re just plain lazy. Anything else is a silly excuse. Like I said, I’m all for breaking the rules when doing so makes the work better, but how can you break rules effectively if you don’t know what the rules are?

No matter what trade, craft, or career you’re pursuing, it all starts with learning the basics. Actors learn how to read scripts. Scientists learn how to apply the scientific method. Politicians learn how to… well, never mind what politicians do. We are writers. We must learn how to write well, and writing well definitely requires using good grammar.

Pitch In!

Share your favorite reasons why writers should embrace good grammar by leaving a comment. Feel free to recommend useful writing resources and grammar guides. And keep writing!

Poetry Writing Exercises: Alliteration and Assonance

poetry writing exercises

Poetry writing exercises: alliteration and assonance.

Today’s poetry writing exercise is an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

The exercises in 101 Creative Writing Exercises encourage you to experiment with different forms and genres while providing inspiration for publishable projects and imparting useful writing techniques that make your writing more robust.

This poetry writing exercise is from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” It’s titled “Alliteration and Assonance.” This exercise covers two literary devices that make your writing more rhythmic and memorable. Enjoy!

Poetry Writing Exercise: Alliteration and Assonance

Developing a vocabulary of poetry terms and literary devices will help you better understand the writing techniques and tools that are at your disposal. It may not occur to you that you can build rhythm by repeating consonant sounds. When you know the meaning of alliteration, then this idea is more likely to influence your work.

Poetry terms, such as alliteration and assonance, show us how clever, creative word arrangements add musicality to any piece of writing, making it more compelling and memorable. These terms and the concepts they represent apply to all types of writing, not just poetry.

Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sounds of words in close proximity to one another. Examples of alliteration include black and blue, we walk, and time after time.

In some cases, alliteration is used to refer to any repeated consonant sounds, even if they don’t occur at the beginning of words. An example of this would be “blue notebook,” where the b sound is repeated at the beginning of blue and in the middle of notebook.

Alliteration might also be used to describe the repetition of a consonant sound nestled in the middle or even at the end of words. Blueberry, for example, contains alliteration within a single word.

Assonance is similar to alliteration, except it deals exclusively with vowel sounds. Assonance occurs when accented vowel sounds are repeated in proximity:

Assonance allows literary writers to create fun phrases.

In the example phrase above, there are several runs of assonance. The opening a sounds in the words assonance and allows demonstrate one run of assonance. This run is marked with underlining. A second run is marked with bold lettering and occurs with the a sounds in create and phrases. Can you find a third run of assonance in the sentence?

Assonance often evokes a sense of rhyme without serving up a direct or technical rhyme. The phrase “fancy pants” is an example of this.

So, how are alliteration and assonance used for effect? Well, think about repetition in general. When you repeat something over and over, it becomes embedded in memory. Alliteration and assonance work the same way. If used correctly, these devices enhance the rhythm of a piece, making it more memorable.

The Exercise

Go through a piece of writing (your own or someone else’s) and look for instances of assonance and alliteration.

The material you work with can be poetry, fiction, a journal entry, or a blog post. Any form of writing will do.

Mark the runs of assonance and alliteration with bold, underlining, italics, or highlighting. When you’re done, read the piece aloud to get the full effect.

Tips: Double-check the runs you’ve identified for assonance to make sure they mark stressed (or accented) syllables. Watch out for sounds that are different but use the same letter (such as the a sounds in cat and cape).

Variations: As an alternative to identifying alliteration and assonance in a piece of writing, try writing a short piece with several runs in it. Or revise a page from an existing writing project to inject alliteration and assonance into it.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


Applications: Musicality and repetition enrich any piece of writing. Too often, writers focus on content and not language. The study of poetry, poetry terms, and literary devices like alliteration and assonance reminds us to work on our language, word choice, and sentence structure.

Creative Writing Activities

creative writing activities

Take a break with these creative writing activities

Every once in a while, we writers need a break from our regular writing routines. Whether we spend our work week crafting copy for clients or dedicate late-night hours pounding out chapter and verse, we occasionally need respite from the monotony.

We get burnt out in the middle of a long project and need to step away so we can gain perspective and recharge our creativity. Sometimes we need to rejuvenate between projects. When a major project is finished, we need to find our next big idea.

But we also want to keep writing. A short vacation from writing practice starts with good intentions but ends with wondering how months or years slipped by without getting any real writing done.

One great way to continue writing while taking a break from our work is by engaging in creative writing activities. These are activities that remind us that writing is fun, meaningful, and invigorating, and they keep our writing skills sharp.

Creative Writing Activities

These creative writing activities provide respite from your daily writing routine. Try one or try them all. Use them when you need a break from your regular work or when you’re between projects.

Poetry Walk
Grab your notebook and put on your walking shoes. Take a stroll and make notes about what you see: city life and wildlife. Take photos to capture what you’ve seen. Pause during your walk (stop at a park bench) and compose a poem or wait until you return home. A poetry walk is a great way to collect ideas and images for your creative writing projects.
Writing Exercises
Writing exercises keep your skill sharp and your creativity flowing even when inspiration is fleeting.
Character Journal
Fiction writers need to get inside their characters’ heads. A great way to do this is to keep a journal as your character. It’s a great way to understand a character and find his or her voice. 
Re-imagine the Classics
The greatest stories in history are revised and retold over and over again. Choose a classic legend or fairy tale and re-imagine it. Write an outline or draft the whole story.
Photo Prompts
Head over to Flickr or use Google image search to look for interesting photos that you can use to prompt a random creative writing session. 
Sell Yourself
Take a break from your creative work and get down to business. Work on a query letter, a book proposal, or content for your author’s website.
What-if List
The best writing ideas come from asking what-if questions. Make a big list of what-if questions that you can use later for writing inspiration.
Name Game 
You’ve got characters, story ideas, a novel in the works, and a blog. Conduct a brainstorming session to come with names and titles for these projects. 
Tool Time 
Do you consistently write in your notebook with your favorite pen or is all your writing done on a computer? Try mixing it up and using a variety of writing instruments: pencils, crayons, markers. Write on note cards, sticky notes, and cardboard. 
Idea Box
Take a break from writing and make an idea box. This is a place where you can stash writing ideas, exercises, and prompts for later use. It can be as simple as a cardboard shipping box or you can decorate a fancier vessel for your treasure. Use note cards to record your ideas and prompts and then toss them in the box. Use them whenever the mood strikes!
Observation Station
Get out of your own head. Grab your notebook or journal and head to a heavily populated area. Park yourself on a bench or in a comfy café and do a little people watching. Record your observations and brainstorm ways you can use observation to influence and empower your writing.
Vocabulary Building
A writer without words is working without tools! Dedicate some time to expanding your vocabulary. Play some word games (crossword puzzles, for example), sign up for a word-of-the-day program, or flip through the dictionary. Start a language journal, a place where you can keep track of newly learned words. 

Get Busy!

Do you ever take a break from the seriousness of writing to engage in creativity exercises? What are some of your favorite creative writing activities?

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

How to Become a Better Writer

better writer

How to become a better writer.

There’s more to writing than pushing a pen across a piece of paper, and there’s more to being a writer than having written.

These days, everyone’s a writer. We write emails, text messages, and lists. A free blog is just a few clicks away. Self-publishing has drawn tens of thousands of dreamers who have scrawled stories and uploaded them to the web for all to read.

Everyone’s a writer, including you.

But how do you differentiate yourself? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you make your words and ideas resonate with a reading audience?

Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

There’s more to becoming a better writer than improving your writing, although that’s certainly part of it. Here are a few ways you can become a better writer:

1. Make the commitment: Sometimes the difference between a working writer and a would-be author is as simple as making a commitment to writing (and then sticking with it).

2. Do the work: Write as often as you can, every day if possible. Spend more time writing than talking about writing or thinking about writing.

3. Engage with other writers: They will keep your fire burning, and they can help you with your writing. Find a writing buddy or group of writers and swap critiques.

4. Study the craft: There’s always more to learn. Writing is a complex and intricate field. I don’t think anyone can learn it all in one lifetime, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying!

5. Read: The single best way to become a better writer is to simply read.

6. Know the industry: If you plan on being a professional writer, you should familiarize yourself with the business side of things. Become knowledgeable about submitting your work, publishing, and marketing.

7. Be diligent: Rewrite, edit, proof, repeat. Nobody wants to read your rough drafts, including agents, editors, and fellow writers who are critiquing your work or helping you with proofreading and editing.

8. Build a platform: Thanks to the Internet, it is cheaper and easier to build a platform today than ever before. Learn how to market yourself: find your readers, connect with them, and sell your books.

9. Know your audience: I like to think of a reading audience as a group of people connected by a common interest or passion. Who are your readers?

10. Be yourself: Don’t write what’s hot, write what’s in your heart.

How much effort do you invest in improving your writing? Do you take steps every day to become a better writer? What steps have you taken to develop your craft and grow as a writer? Do you have any tips to add to this list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

A Few, Good Writing Tips to Keep You on Your Toes

good writing tips

A few good writing tips to keep you on your toes

Have you ever gotten stuck in a writing project, and just when your frustration reached its peak, you heard some bit of sage advice that helped you see how to move forward?

There aren’t many writing problems that a few good writing tips can’t solve. Whether you need to develop your voice or use fewer clichés, quick tips can contain exactly the wisdom you need.

I keep a file of quotes by authors so that I can refer to their expertise when I need it. I also have several books, notebooks, and other documents filled with writing tips and techniques, and I like to review these every so often to see what I need to bring into my own work. In many cases, these tips are just quick reminders of all the lessons I’ve learned before.

A Collection of Good Writing Tips

As we develop our writing skills, we learn tons of concepts. From grammar to storytelling techniques, literary devices to poetry forms, there is so much to learn that one can become overwhelmed. A good list of writing tips summarizes complex lessons into digestible pieces of advice that keep you on toes lest you forget or neglect the guidelines for good writing.

Here are some of my favorite tips and reminders:

  • Find your best writing tools and spaces. Are you more creative when you wield a pen? Do you get more writing done at your computer? Does your imagination run wild at night or do you get your best work done in the morning hours? Would you rather curl up on the couch with your project or sit straight and alert at a desk?
  • Hold yourself accountable. When was the last time you actually wrote anything? Do you keep track? Do days go by before you realize you haven’t written a word or do months go by? Find a system to keep yourself on track.
  • Embrace and develop your voice, the unique way you string words and sentences together.
  • Are you a writer or a storyteller? Writers know how to use their most important tools (grammar and language). Storytellers spin tales. You can be one or the other, or you can be both.
  • Follow your heart. Don’t write for the market or for your friends and family. Figure out what ignites your passion, and then figure out how to translate that into a story, poem, or essay.
  • Set some goals. In a decade or two, you can fill boxes with notebooks and journals or cram your hard drive with documents, but to what purpose? What do you want to accomplish with your writing?
  • Seek out your heroes. Which poems and stories move you? Whom do you admire? Which writers do you want to emulate? They are your mentors.
  • Read like a fiend.
  • Mix and mingle with other writers. They are your best support system.
  • Make writing a priority. If you didn’t write anything today, review the day and figure out what you could have skipped in order to make time for writing.
  • Mix your media. Good stories and poems are hiding everywhere. Writers often look to other writers for inspiration, but you can glean inspiration from musicians, filmmakers, painters, and other artists too. The Internet is jam-packed with sources of inspiration: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google image search are all good places to start.
  • Stop trying to be original and just be yourself.
  • Critique other writers’ work, but don’t judge other writers. Embrace critiques and reviews when someone bothers to take the time to issue feedback on your writing.
  • Support the literary community. What kind of writer doesn’t buy books, leave positive reviews of stories they love, or share and promote their fellow writers’ best work?
  • Put it out there. Many writers struggle just to put their words in front of an audience. Start by sharing with trusted friends. Then take a workshop. Join a writers’ group. Start submitting your work to literary journals. Finally, give the world your book.
  • Read what you want to write. If you want to write with great skill, then read writers who are skilled. Read in the genres and forms that you aspire to.
  • But read beyond your genre and past your skill level. Don’t limit yourself.
  • Be an active user of the dictionary and thesaurus. Become a fact checker. Use research and trusted resources to make sure your work is credible and accurate.
  • Get to know your audience. There’s a difference between writing for the market and identifying your audience and writing for them.

Do little bits of writerly advice ever help you over a hurdle? Do you have any good writing tips to share? Are you stuck in your own writing slump? What has pulled you out of a slump in the past? Share your writing tips and experiences by leaving a comment.

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

A Selection of Poetry Prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts

poetry prompts

Poetry Prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts.

Today’s poetry prompts come from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which is jam-packed with ideas and inspiration for writers and includes prompts for fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

Some of the poetry prompts in the book ask you to use a list of specific words in a poem. Some give you a topic to write about. Some ask you to draw on your life experience. Some give you images to use as inspiration for a poem.

All of the prompts are designed to spark ideas and inspire you to write. And you don’t have to use the prompts to write poems. Use a prompt to write an essay or a blog post. If you get a prompt that contains a list of words but one of the words isn’t working in your poem, delete it from the list. If one of the images give you an idea for a story, write a story. Use the prompts in whatever way you see fit.

25 Poetry Prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts

  1. Write a descriptive poem about a banana split: three scoops of ice cream with banana halves on either side and a big mound of whipped cream on top laced with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts—all topped off with a plump red cherry.
  2. Use all of the following words in a poem: tapestry, sings, eye, din, collide, slippery, fantasy, casting, chameleon, lives.
  3. Write a poem about somebody who betrayed you, or write a poem about betrayal.
  4. Write a poem using the following image: a smashed flower on the sidewalk.
  5. The hallmark of great poetry is imagery. A truly compelling poem paints a picture and invites the reader into a vivid scene. Choose an image or scene from one of your favorite poems and write a poem of your own based on that image.
  6. Use all of the following words in a poem: scythe, fresh, bloody, dainty, screaming, deadly, discovery, harrowing.
  7. Write a poem about one (or both) of your parents. It could be a tribute poem, but it doesn’t have to be.
  8. Write a poem using the following images: a “no smoking” sign and a pair of fishnet stockings.
  9. You’re feeling under the weather, so you put the teapot on. Soon it starts to scream. Write a poem about the sound of a whistling teapot.
  10. Use all of the following words in a poem: stem, canvas, grain, ground, leather, furrow.
  11. The beach, the mountains, the vast sea, and deep space are all great for tributary poems about places. Write about the city you love, the town you call home, or your favorite vacation destination.
  12. Write a poem using the following image: a pair of baby shoes.
  13. Some poems are more than just poems. They tell stories. Try writing a poem that is also a story, a play, or an essay.
  14. Use all of the following words in a poem: elegant, hips, fern, listless, twisting, bind, surprise.
  15. Write a poem about the first time you experienced something.
  16. Write a poem using the following image: a torn photograph.
  17. Although holidays have deeper meanings, we like to truss them up with a lot of decadence and nostalgia. All that food! All those presents! Oh, what fun it is…Write a poem about the holidays.
  18. Use all of the following words in a poem: burnt, spacious, metropolis, pacing, fiery, cannon.
  19. Write a poem about an inanimate object. You can write a silly poem about how much you admire your toaster or you can write a serious piece declaring the magnificence of a book.
  20. Write a poem using the following image: a small rowboat tied to a pier, bobbing in the water under darkening skies.
  21. Now that time has healed the wounds, write a poem to someone who broke your heart long ago.
  22. Use all of the following words in a poem: deadline, boom, children, shallow, dirt, creep, instigate.
  23. Write a poem about streets, highways, and bridges.
  24. Write a poem using the following images: a broken bottle and a guitar pick.
  25. Write a poem about the smell of cheesy, doughy, saucy, spicy pizza baking in the oven.

Did any of these poetry prompts inspire you to write? Which one stoked your creative flames? Did you write a poem, or were you inspired to write something else? Where do you get your best creative inspiration? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

Creative Writing Prompts

How to Come Up With Writing Ideas When Your Muse is on Vacation

writing ideas

Is your muse on vacation? Get your writing ideas here!

Have you ever sat down to start a new writing project and then realized an hour later you were still sitting there, staring idly at the blank page?

Sometimes writing ideas don’t come easy.

In a writer’s ideal world, the blank page is something we always look forward to, a fresh canvas that we can color with ideas and texture with language. When our muse is dancing around, we feel motivated and inspired, so that blank page feels like the start of an exciting adventure.

But if our mind isn’t in the right place, if our muse is on vacation, that same page is nothing but a source of frustration.

When I became a professional copywriter, I had to learn how to write whether the muse was present or not. You know how muses are, fleeting little hooligans. I couldn’t rely on mine all the time. So I learned how to get along without her. That meant coming up with my own creative writing ideas.

Outsmarting the Missing Muse

Yes, you can get along without your muse. I won’t lie to you and tell you that writing without your muse is the same. It’s less pleasant, more time consuming, and makes you feel like a struggling hack rather than the brilliant writer that you are. Still, life (and work and writing) goes on whether the muse is at your beck and call or not.

First, you have to figure out why your muse failed to show up. Here are some reasons mine runs off and hides:

  • I’m just not that into this particular project and neither is she.
  • The muse’s secret entrance is blocked by my stress, fatigue, or hunger.
  • She’s put her time in for the day and has clocked out (the well’s run dry).

Once I recognize the problem, it’s a little easier to cope with the muse’s absence. I still miss her, but now that I know why she’s a no-show, I’m ready to forge ahead without her.

Forget the Muse, Discover Willpower

You see, the secret to facing the blank page without the muse is sheer determination. You achieve this by getting into the right frame of mind and using clever tricks to convince your brain that it can, in fact, function without the muse. I do this by telling myself any or all of the following:

  • Once I get the first sentence out, the piece will start to flow.
  • I don’t have to get it right (this is a rough draft, after all). I just have to get it written.
  • If I hurry up and get this done, I can do something else.

Sometimes these simple reminders are all it takes to get your word machine in good working order. By forcing yourself to push ahead or promising yourself a little reward, you can actually convince your brain to become productive without its mischievous little friend. That would be your muse, for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention.

Try a New Approach for Coming up with Writing Ideas

What? You say your brain is smarter than you are, and these tricks don’t work for you? Don’t worry, I have more magic up my sleeve. After all, I’ve been outsmarting the muse for years.

  • Take a break and work on a different writing project.
  • Take a break and do something fun for a limited time, then force yourself to spend twenty minutes writing.
  • Take a break and get your blood pumping. Exercise for twenty minutes, take a quick shower, then write for fifteen minutes.

Now, you have to be careful when it comes to taking breaks. You don’t want to stare at that blank page for five minutes, take a twenty minute break and then just repeat that cycle all the livelong day. That won’t do you any good and your absent muse will have won.

There’s a good chance your brain just needs to do a little stretching. Ever wake up in the morning and your muscles are all stiff? You yawn and stretch (and try to come alive). Sometimes your brain needs to do that too.

When you switch gears and get your wheels turning on a different project, you can build momentum for when you return to the one that’s giving you a hard time. Or, you could just be overworked and need to pamper yourself by having some fun. Play with the dog or the kids, watch some hilarous YouTube videos, or turn up the music and dance around in your underwear.

Uh oh. I said underwear.

That brings us to getting the old blood pumping. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, so I can’t give you the biological, physiological diatribe about how blood flow and oxygen getting to your brain can make you more alert and get those creative juices flowing. But take my word for it. A little workout can do wonders for encouraging the word current. (Yes, dancing around in your underwear to really loud obnoxious music counts as a workout. Plus it’s fun, so you get two for the price of one.)

When the Muse Returns

When your muse gets back and discovers all the work you’ve done without her, you might want to gloat. This could discourage her from taking any sabbaticals in the future. Maybe you don’t want to hurt her feelings. If she’s sensitive, then gloating might only encourage her to take off more frequently. All muses are different, and I can only suggest you learn how to deal with yours through trial and error. But be sure to feed her plenty of cream puffs and chocolate éclairs.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Of course, because I’m so predictable. I want you to tell us all about your muse. How often does she take a vacation? How do you cope with her absence? Have you found ways to write without your muse, or are you fully codependent on her writing ideas? Is your muse a dude?

Do you have any tips for how to outsmart the muse and come up with your own writing ideas? Leave a comment but don’t tell the muses we’re talking about them. We wouldn’t want it to go to their heads.

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Report It

101 creative writing exercises - Report It

“Report It” from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises. It’s packed with writing exercises to help you explore all forms of creative writing: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. The book is designed to inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.

This exercise comes from “Chapter Two: It’s Personal.” The writing exercises in this chapter focus on writing of a personal nature: memoir, journal writing, and personal essays.

I chose this exercise because it’s challenging and fun. It asks you to look at your own life from a fresh perspective and make yourself the subject of a news report.

Give it a try! Then come back and tell us what you learned and how this exercise worked for you.

Report It

Is your life newsworthy? Have you ever witnessed, committed, or been the victim of a crime? Have you ever participated in a protest or a performance? Have you ever had an odd or unusual (paranormal or supernatural) experience?

Traditional and professional journalism is concise and factual. It adheres to a set of journalistic ethics, focusing on the facts and details of the story and presenting those facts thoroughly and honestly. True journalism is objective. The ethical journalist does not inject his or her feelings or opinions.

But journalists are human. The news media in general is increasingly accused of using a variety of creative tactics to spin the news in favor of their own religious, political, or philosophical beliefs. For example, in a report, a journalist should not badmouth a suspected criminal, but that journalist can include a quote from a witness who has badmouthed the criminal while intentionally not including a positive quote from some other witness.

Journalists can pick and choose quotes, facts, and even which stories to report.

When you think about the fact that journalists and reporters are responsible for feeding us information about what’s going on in the world and then consider that they are mere human beings, flawed, emotional, and opinionated just like the rest of us, you can only begin to imagine and wonder just how spun all the news actually is.

The Exercise

Your challenge is to revisit your past and write a news report about something you experienced firsthand.

The rules are simple: straight journalism. What does that mean? True journalists are not allowed to include personal emotion or opinion in their writing. Be as objective as possible. Don’t take sides!

Write about the event or incident as if you are a journalist looking in on your own story from the outside. Make sure you include a headline that will attract readers’ attention.

Tips: To get a feeling for how journalism is written (its tone and style), visit a reputable news site and read a few articles.

Variations: Instead of reporting on a story, write a paparazzi piece. Were you spotted while out on a hot date? If you’re at a loss for subject matter, get creative and write a fictional news story; make up something or change something from your past or better yet, write a news story from your future (maybe you win the Pulitzer Prize in ten years).

Applications: The most obvious application is that you could, someday, become a journalist. Journalism in general is an objective style of writing (at least, it’s supposed to be), and this is a style that is difficult to achieve. This exercise encourages you to write about something you care about but to refrain from including your feelings or personal views.

101 Creative Writing Exercises