Writing Ideas and Prompts

This page is where I post some of the writing ideas I’ve used myself or with groups. Feel free to use them. Where the ideas are based on something in a book or other published work I’ll try to give the reference.


21 Responses to Writing Ideas and Prompts

  1. Pingback: Here in this room… | Words for Wellbeing

  2. Carol Ross says:

    Today in this room…

    I first experienced this writing exercise on a workshop with British poet Dr Geraldine Green. It is a great piece of mindful writing that can be varied according to your mood or the group you are working with.

    For each line fragment I suggest you write for 2-3 minutes.

    Today in this room I can see…
    Today in this room I can hear…
    Today in this room I can feel…
    Today in this room I can smell…
    Today in this room I can taste…

    Mindful writing like this, or writing in the here-and-now, can be very calming (and could also have other beneficial effects depending on the person who is doing the writing).

    When using this exercise in a mental health ward, where people could hear voices and are likely to ‘feel’ pretty low, I adapt the prompts. For example I might use these instead: Here in this room I can see… Right now I can hear the sound of… Today in this room my fingers touch… Right now in this room I can smell… Here in this room my tongue can taste…

    I’ve posted the first draft of a poem I created using this writing idea on the main page of my blog.

  3. Pingback: On Looking at my signature upside down… | Words for Wellbeing

  4. Carol Ross says:

    I have to thank the British poet Elizabeth Burns for this idea…

    Sign your normal signature on a sheet of paper. You should probably try to make it a bit bigger than usual if possible. Turn turn the paper around so you are looking at the signature upside down. What does it remind you of or make you think about? Now do some writing inspired by the upside down signature. You might do some Freewriting or list some words and then incorporate them in to a poem.

    I’ll post my attempt at this exercise on my main blog page.

  5. Pingback: Shadows | Words for Wellbeing

  6. Carol Ross says:

    Here’s a poetry challenge for you…

    Create a poem comprising 2 stanzas, where each stanza contains these words: white, light, mountain, glass, shadow.

    I’ll post my attempt on the main page of this blog.

  7. Carol Ross says:

    Freewriting from postcards
    in my monthly group I usually start with Freewriting in response to a themed set of words. Tomorrow I’m going to vary things. I am taking some art postcards and the idea is that I hand each person a postcard (including myself) which we try not to let anyone else see. We each look at our card for a few seconds and then turn it face down and Freewrite for 3 minutes. Next we pass our card to the person on our left and write again. I thought we could write about 3 cards each, which should take 10 minutes and then read out what we’ve written, or not, depending on personal preference.

    I’ll let you know how it works.


  8. Pingback: Writing Lunch | Words for Wellbeing

  9. Carol Ross says:

    Writing Lunch with Colleagues

    One of my colleagues (who works in health research) asked recently if she could try writing in one of my groups so I suggested a writing lunch and I have invited everyone in the team to a writing lunch tomorrow. We are going to eat our sandwiches together in our meeting room and then do ½ an hour of writing together. 4 of the team are coming tomorrow (some of the team are going to be away at a conference).

    The writing exercise (there will only be time for one) I plan to do tomorrow is Freewriting from word prompts – 5 words, 2 minutes per word. The words I have selected are (in order): Speed, Power, Beauty, Balance, Freedom. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    If everyone enjoys the session I plan to do one every month and my idea for next month is to do a reflective practice writing exercise – anyone and everyone can do reflective practice and writing is a great way to do it.


  10. Superb, helpful ideas! Thanks so much. Rob

  11. Pingback: Gloves | Words for Wellbeing

  12. Carol Ross says:


    One of my favourite writing prompts is to bring half a dozen pairs of gloves – work gloves, leather motorbike gloves, work ones, gardening, ‘magic’ gloves, etc. We each choose a pair of gloves as our inspiration. Depending on the individuals in the group we might write about someone who might own the gloves, write about them in action wearing the gloves perhaps. Or we might write to describe the gloves using the senses in our writing. Sometimes someone will write about a memory evoked by their chosen pair of gloves.

    One day I broughtgloves to a ward writing group that, by chance, included a young man who uses protective gloves all the time in his work. He took to the writing exercise with enthusiasm, writing about his own work gloves and how important they are to him because they save his hands from being cut and injured in his work. After the exercise he asked if he could fetch his own work gloves from his bedroom so we all had the chance to see and touch the gloves he had written about with such feeling. Experiences like that one get the participants in the group talking – in the group and out of it. I hope that this leads to some individuals having conversations in the ward afterwards that might not otherwise have happened – those individuals may not have otherwise made a connection at all, or if they already knew each other they have new topics to discuss in the beverage area or TV lounge on the ward.

  13. Carol Ross says:

    Fabric Swatches

    Spread some fabric squares out – I like to use 9 arranged in a square and spread on a lovely silk scarf. Each participant chooses a fabric to write about. Once approach I use is to suggest that each person thinks about what might item be made of the fabric they’ve chosen, and then who might own the item, and then start to write. Some people need more explanation than others, depending on their writing experience and enthusiasm (and how well they are). Try to explain the exercise in an open flexible way so you don’t lead people to write in a certain way (about someone wearing a garment made of the cloth for example). I find you can bring really specific stimuli like fabric pieces but if you are open and flexible in the way you introduce the writing exercise everyone will write what they feel inspired to write without being led. But you have to be observant so you pick up if someone needs more guidance.

  14. Carol Ross says:

    Try this idea for making a poem…

    Choose 5 colours; write each colour out 5 times down the LHS of the page; use each word as the start of a shortish line; pick out the lines you like; and rearrange into a poem.

    For example…

    silver threads among the gold
    silver moon hanging high
    silver fish slipping by
    silver glints on lazy ripples
    silver ….

  15. I love your prompts! I have done similar work with groups and am endlessly fascinated by people’s individual takes on things. I may steal some of your ideas.

  16. Carol Ross says:

    Using Picture Postcards in Therapeutic Writing Groups
    I use picture postcards often in my groups and in all sorts of ways. I consider them to be endlessly adaptable. Often I ask people to each choose a card that appeals and give them ideas to get them started writing, e.g., write what you see, imagine the scene in another season, imagine you were there, write the ‘story’ of the picture. Sometimes we all write about the same card. Once when I asked everyone to write about the same card and write what they could see in the picture, all but one of us described the tangible elements of the picture – sea, sand, sky, car, man, woman. But interestingly one person wrote solely about the emotions she could see being played out between the man and the woman in the picture. The differences in our responses to the cards and the ‘stories’ we devise make for interesting writing and stimulating discussions.

  17. Carol Ross says:

    You might use one of these one-line poems to kick-start some writing…

    Buttermere lifted her face to the sun and swallowed a piece of sky
    The boy hunched into his life like a dog cowering in a kennel.
    Safe in the tree cathedral she felt her soul breathe.
    The sea raised a sleepy head and whispered its secrets to the wind.
    Soft and quick as a shadow he slipped between her days.
    Dog days and chilli pepper nights passed without number.
    Love left town taking reason with it.

    Cheers, Carol.

  18. Carol Ross says:

    Freewriting using word prompts

    When working with groups I find that Freewriting using a set of 4-5 words is a good exercise to use, especially for the start of a session. For me, a good writing exercise inspires each member of the group to write what they want or need to write at that moment and this kind of Freewriting exercise does that.

    With a group of inpatients I use 4 words and allow 2 minutes writing time per word. To avoid having to look at my watch, which might be off-putting, I time 2 minutes by how much I write – 1″ of writing on a page of A4 takes me about 2 minutes. This method of timekeeping has the added adantage of allowing extra time for sudden distractions such as a loud aeroplane passing overhead.

    I like to use themed sets of words as Freewriting prompts. With people who are well enough themed word sets can bring out writing in the form of a story – either a personal story or from the imagination.

    Here are some example word sets that have worked well in my groups:
    Snow, cave, mountain, river
    Sea, wave, ship, wind
    Rain, thunder, singing, music
    Suitcase, sea mist, sandcastle, souvenir
    Garden, cottage, window, bridge, castle
    Red, blue, white, green, yellow
    Square, triangle, circle, box, star

    Take care over the words you choose. I prefer words that can be interpreted in more than one way. Two words that have not worked so well for me are: mirror [not everyone likes what they see when they look in a mirror] and orange [for one patient this brought back memories of being bullied at school because of the colour of her hair].

    Let me know what you think, Carol.

  19. Carol Ross says:

    Writing Goals:

    1. Write about – or make a list of – the kind of writing you most often do:
    [This could include emails, shopping lists, reports, a diary – whatever you feel you write most often]

    2. Write about the kind of writing you want to do:
    [What type(s) of writing are you not allowing yourself the time to do? Do you yearn to write poetry? Do you have an idea for a story but haven’t got around to starting it? Would you like to write a journal every day but not the motivation to actually do it?]

    3. Write about the kind of writing you think you need to do:
    [This is a bit trickier. Is there something about yourself you’d like to work on? Have you problems or worries about which you need to get some clarity? Freewriting can help with this – often what comes out in your Freewriting shows you what you need to write about.]

    4. How can you do more of the kind of writing you want / need to do?
    [Writing a little every day is the best way to keep writing. Look at your typical day and ask yourself when would be the best time of day for you to write. Make yourself a promise about when and how often you will write, e.g., you might promise to write for 10 minutes at 9pm every evening. You also need to promise to allow yourself that time to write.]

    5. Write down one small writing goal, and when you will achieve it:
    [Example: I will write do 5 minutes of Freewriting, every day, for one week, starting today.]

    Good luck – if you try this idea please leave me some feedback about how it worked for you.


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