It’s seven in the evening. I’m seated at my desk, staring down a blank word document, fingers poised over the keyboard. I’ve been sitting here for over thirty minutes, alternating between the word document and the 10+ tabs I have open in Firefox. I know that I’m not doing myself any favors, trying to write and surf the Internet at the same time. But my brain is absolutely fried.
I began my writing session with an idea for the beginning of a short story, but the instant I flipped open my laptop, the idea fizzled out. I have an hour left before my session is officially over and I can concede defeat—but my fingers itch. The urge to write something, anything, keeps me from simply giving up and plunging headfirst into a morass of online distraction.
This is an emergency. I need inspiration, and I need it fast.
When I am in dire need of inspiration, there are three websites that I turn to for prompts, advice, and encouragement:
Toasted Cheese: This literary journal and writing community is like a panacea created for bored, hopeless, and struggling writers: there are forums, daily prompts, monthly exercises, articles, contests—in a word, everything. I love Toasted Cheese for its daily prompt calendars. The exercises range from scenarios (“A bystander helping at an accident scene”) to tasks that take you beyond the blank word document (“Give another writer a compliment about their writing”).
Terrible Minds: This blog, which its author, Chuck Wendig, warns is “unmercifully profane,” is an excellent source of advice and inspiration in the form of Top 25 lists (from knowing your antagonists to bad writer behaviors) and flash fiction challenges.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Forums: When I’m not scrambling to reach my 50,000 word goal during November, I love browsing the NaNoWriMo forums for prompts. My favorite haunt is the Adoption Society, where writers offer ideas for adoption. Do you need a plot? A character? An awkward situation? The Adoption Society has it all and more.
So do you use prompts for inspiration? If so, what is your go-to website or book? Feel free to share your solutions to that bane called writer’s block in the comments!
Stephanie Morris is a WriterHouse intern, a college sophomore who majors in something new every week, an aspiring writer of Gothic horror and speculative fiction, and a voice actor. She lives south of Charlottesville in a hilltop castle haunted by hens, turkeys, two black pigs, and her very own Hound of the Baskervilles.