30 Creative Writing Prompts for Memoir or Non-Fiction

We all get stuck (or, dare I say it, "writer's block") from time to time. I see this happen in two primary ways with clients. 

The first is, they'll message me and say, "Elizabeth, I'm supposed to write 2000 words today, and I felt like I did but then when I checked my word count, I was only at 1246. Do I force the rest? What do I do?"

The second message they'll send sounds a bit like, "Elizabeth, I'm sitting here and I'm thinking and I'm sitting here and I'm thinking and...I've got nothing,"

In both cases, I promise, you have something to say. You are overthinking, and worried too much about the quality of what comes out of your mouth (or fingers). At this stage, it's about getting the stories down. The feelings. The perspectives. 

I have NO doubt that you have no problem sharing with me your perspective on just about anything---and usually in far more than 2000 words! 

All you need is for someone to ask you a question in a way that compels you to have to interrupt them to say, "Oh, I have something to say about that!"

To that end, here are 30 great writing prompts that I use both with myself and with clients to help get you out of your head in order to get you into your head! 

Take the one you see first. Or start from the bottom up. Or tell your 6-year-old to pick a number between 1 and 30 and trust that the universe is sending you the corresponding prompt.

There's no right or wrong approach. Just keep writing. 

 1. Imagine that you've traveled through time and encountered a younger version of yourself. What lesson/tip/reassurance would you provide to him/her?

2. Tell me about a moment when you were terrified to do something, but you did it anyway. How did you feel once on the other side of this experience? What would the "after" you tell the "before" you?

3. What's something that most people don't know about you (and would be surprised to learn)?

4. What do you enjoy doing in your free time that you don't consider yourself an "expert" at? What have you learned from engaging in that activity or pastime?

5. Share the story of a time you felt betrayed. 

6. What is something you see others doing and you think, "I understand completely why they are doing that, but if they knew what I now know, they would do it differently"?

7. If money, time (and pandemics) were no object, where is one place on earth you would love to visit? Why are you intrigued by that place?

8. Close your eyes. When you open them, what is the first thing that you see? Describe that item -- where did you get it, what does it look like, what does it mean to you? (and if you have no answer to the above, feel free to "Marie Kondo" it!)

9. Think of a time when you felt full of undeniable peace and love. Describe it! 

10. Tell a story you'd never want your mom or dad to read. 

11. If your life were summed up in a newspaper headline, what would that headline be?

12. What adult had the most influence on molding who you are today? How did he or she influence you?

13. If you could have dinner with any three cartoon characters (you would, of course, be a cartoon character as well during this delightful encounter!), which would you choose? Why? 

14. Who is your favorite superhero? Why?

15. When your house is completely silent, how do you feel? Explore this!

16. What's an event in your life that you and someone close to you disagree on when it comes to how the event played out? What is your experience/perception? What is theirs?

17. What was your favorite celebration as a young child? As an adolescent? As an adult? Pick one and describe it in detail. 

18. What is one of your favorite quotes and why? When did it become important/meaningful to you?

19. What do you want to do more than anything in this life? Write about it in detail. What compels you to have that desire? What will the experience look like when you have it? 

20. What was the last trip you took? Describe the most vivid memory from that trip and explore why it is so significant to you. 

21. What single event has most strongly shaped who you currently are and the experience you are currently having?

22. Write about yourself doing one of the top three things you aim to do in this life as though you're doing it in the present moment. How do you feel? What do you see, hear, smell? 

23. What family heirloom means the most to you? Why?

24. Take a boring moment that happened recently and write about it in as much detail as you can -- make the boring unboring! (Is that a word?) 

25. Did you ever give a pet name to a plant, a car, a toy? Tell me about it! What made that item so important to you that you personified it?

26. Who or what experience hurt your spirit most in this lifetime? Tell me about the experience and how it affected you. 

27. If you could give $100,000 to any charitable organization today, which one would you choose any why? (Note: if you have a charitable organization, you cannot use that as the answer!)

28. What is your favorite room in your house? 

29. If you could take on (or hire out) one home improvement project today, which would it be?

30. Did you have a nickname when you were a young child/adolescent/adult? Who gave it to you? Do you believe it's a good "fit?"