Adult Writing Prompts: Great Prompts to Inspire You

image of notebook and pen on a table with writing: adult writing prompts
Nadia Colburn // January 3, 2022 // 2 Comments

So first, what are adult writing prompts?

Adult writing prompts are not X-rated–don’t worry–but I want to differentiate them from prompts for children.

To be honest, when I was in my 20s, I thought writing prompts were only for children. I thought mature creative writers didn’t need any outside help.

As I’ve gotten older, though, it’s more and more clear to me that the idea of an isolated, autonomous writer or creator—or self— is itself a fallacy; we all always need–and also are always getting–help.

My meditation and Buddhist practices have emphasized for me the ways in which we are all inter-related; we “inter-are,” as the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says. Our very being depends upon the being of others.

And our use of language, in particular, reminds us of this: the language we use was formed over millennia, shaped by the mouths and pens of so many others before us. We enter into language, which helps shape who we are, and we each give it our own unique expressions, our own unique utterances and voice.

When we write, we are inspired by the language of others, by the stories we have heard, the books we have read. So when I use–and create–writing prompts, I use them to remind us that we are part of a long and important tradition, that we are part of a give and take and dialogue, and that we’re all supporting one another.

Often, in my writing prompts, I like to also share some piece of writing that I find particularly beautiful or interesting or inspiring. Listening to writing that interests me gets me writing in interesting ways.

Want to have an immersive experience with transformational writing prompts?

Join me for a FREE 5-day meditation and writing challenge starting January 10th.

Each day I’ll send out a 15-minute recording with:

  • a short guided meditation
  • a short, inspiring piece of writing,
  • a writing prompt,
  • supported writing time.

Sign up for free here. And invite others to join you. This is a fun way to connect with friends and family.

Adult Writing Prompts: What Are Good Writing Prompts?

Good writing prompts for adults–or people of any age–get people thinking and using language in richer, more attentive ways.

Most of the time, our mind runs along the same paths over and over. But when we are given a prompt, we’re asked to work with the unexpected. We’re given a surprise, a puzzle, a challenge that we need to address creatively. We get out of our habitual rut and our creative mind is triggered.

Good writing prompts encourage writers to use interesting language; they add an element of the unexpected; they allow the reader (and the writer) to discover something new.

Good writing prompts also help the writer get out of their own way, come out of their critical, judgmental mind–that so often acts to self-sabotage our own creative work–and instead into the wisdom of the body and heart.

After all, as writers, we want to evoke physical and emotional experiences in our readers, and to do that, we need to be connected to our own physical and emotional experiences.

Adult Writing Prompts: Bringing Mind and Body Together

Most of us have been trained to write in school, and we got into an old habit of prioritizing the head over the body. When we do this, we split from our authentic, integrated wisdom and intuition.

But when we meditate before we write, we’re able to bring the mind and body together and write from a more centered place.

Instead of just sitting down to write and immediately being confronted with the same monkey-mind, the same old stories and chatter that are running through our head much of the time, we instead come to a place of connection. We tap into a deeper calm. We reconnect with our physical experiences, with the wisdom of our body, intuition, and imagination.

Mind-Body connection helps augment almost every area of our life. We are physically, emotionally, intellectually and creatively more integrated and attuned. Not surprisingly, we have greater access to our creativity and surprising new insights when we meditate before writing.

In my upcoming meditation and writing challenge, each day I send you a recording that guides you in a short meditation, shares a piece of inspiring writing, offers a writing prompt, and gives you supported writing time.

Try it for yourself to experience how different it can be to write after meditation.

Adult Writing Prompts: How Do I Start Each Prompt?

When you start a writing prompt, try to drop your self-critical analytical mind. Many of us have the habit of questioning how “good” our writing is. This judgmental mind that wants to be in control is not the part of yourself that is most conducive to a good flow for our creative writing.

Instead, allow your judgmental mind to step aside for a little while. Allow yourself to get curious and to go on a journey.

Part of the purpose of the prompt is to help us get out of our own way, to help us get out of our habitual ruts into a deeper creative center, into more insights and imaginative freedom.

This brings me back to my misunderstanding when I was younger that a mature creative writer generates the writing in herself, without help. As I get older, I see more and more clearly that our writing comes through us not from us, that we can tap into a wisdom and energy that are greater than our individual selves through our writing lives–some call this inspiration, some call this the muse, some call this grace.

The more you can see yourself as a vessel through whom the writing comes, a co-creator of the piece of writing, the more fun and power you will have as a writer.

Adult Writing Prompts: How I Came To This Practice

I came to this practice in a roundabout way.

I was a writer before I was a meditator. And then for many years, I was a writer who had a meditation practice, but I didn’t bring the two together.

I started to bring the meditation and writing together first for my students: in writing workshops, I’d lead students in a short meditation before giving them a prompt and time to write. And I was amazed at how much writing students did in a short time. Students who complained to me that they hadn’t been able to write all week suddenly wrote finished pieces in just five to eight minutes. And then the work they wrote in that short time after a meditation often needed less revision and felt full of more energy and fluency than other writing they were doing.

Sometimes these students already had a meditation practice. Often they didn’t. It didn’t seem to matter. Bringing meditation and writing together seemed to help almost everyone.

It made sense: so often when we write, we get stuck in old habits; we start to doubt ourselves and get in our own way. When we meditate first, we’re able to tap into greater calm and greater insight. We’re able to get out of the left brain and into the more creative right brain. For all the reasons that meditation helps us integrate mind and body, be more present, be more insightful, so too, meditation helps our creative life and our writing.

So I began to bring meditation into my own writing practice. And I was delighted to see how effective and radical the practice was in my own writing.

I began, also, to experiment with using prompts for myself: freedom and form, structure and play.

I found that often the most random prompts would lead me exactly where I wanted to go. As one participant in one of my challenges said, “Oh my goodness. I just figured out what needs to happen next in my novel. Somehow there was a perfect synergy between your prompt and where I needed to bring my novel next. I’ve been stuck here for months, but I see the way out now. Thank you–and it’s only day two of the challenge!”

As another participant said, “Thank you, Nadia, I haven’t had so much fun writing in years. It’s as if some bottle top were uncorked and the writing just flew out of me.”

Want to have an immersive experience with transformational writing prompts?

Join me for a FREE 5-day meditation and writing challenge starting January 10th.

Each day I’ll send out a 15-minute recording with:

  • a short guided meditation
  • a short, inspiring piece of writing,
  • a writing prompt,
  • supported writing time.

Sign up for free here. And please invite others to join us. It’s a nice way to connect with friends.

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  1. I need to thank you, Nadia.
    You provided me with such a gift, in both the 5 day and repeating 31 day challenges. You broke the dam, uncorked the jug, rubbed the genie’s lamp, and my creative writing is flying free– yet I am more focused and aligned with my purpose that in other outpourings I have experienced. I feel balanced, grounded, centered and present in the moment, thanks to your amazing breathing meditation-writing prompt combinations. Thank you very much.

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