Writing Prompts to Get You Started

Not sure what to write about our current theme? Try these exercises! It can be useful to set a timer and challenge yourself to write for a full 10 or 15 minutes without stopping, to generate ideas. You can always repeat the process, and go back later to 'mine' your free writing for good phrases and concepts that you could build into a whole story or poem.

Self-Portrait With Things

Famous artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo famously painted portraits of themselves with objects that carried meaning: a straw hat, a bandaged ear, a monkey, a significant necklace. Consider yourself as a collection of the things inside your pockets, purse, or backpack. Lay them all out. What story do they tell? What picture do they form? How is it true, and how is it not true? What is missing? Write a list poem, or alternately, write a “portrait” of yourself with one or all of your significant possessions.

A “Secret” Poem

What is a secret? Think about a secret you’ve had, or one that someone told you. Why was it a secret? Did you tell anyone? What happened after that? What happens to a secret that gets told? What happens to a secret that never gets told? Write a poem about a secret you never told anyone, or about one that you did tell.

Lost Items


More than 300,000 items were left on London’s trains and buses last year. Alongside the daily haul of around 150 mobile phones, the office has received a full-size house carpet, a judge’s wig,  a hoard of musical instruments including drum kits, a prosthetic leg, 15,000 pounds in cash, and an urn full of human ashes.

Pick one of these items and write a poem about it.