Keep a Journal

Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt often describes the way she carries a journal or notebook with her everywhere, so she can jot down little lines and observations as they occur to her. This means that when she comes to write a novel, she has a wealth of material to draw on. This is an excellent way to overcome the fear associated with the blank page! She also says she’s useless at dinner parties because she will constantly run out of the room to make notes based on what she’s hearing. It’s also handy for things like capturing the seasons! In summer it can be hard to remember exactly what winter is like, and if you have a notebook full of observations of the weather and the natural world, all you have to do is dip back in! 

 Draw from your own life! 

Write what you know! Ricky Gervais describes the way he simply writes what he has experienced, and that in the specific lies the universal. Oddly, the more specific you make a tale, the more likely others are to recognise their own experiences of life in it. Of course you have to be careful about defamation – make sure to hide the characters in your story enough so that people can’t recognise themselves too well! Or they may sue you for damage to their reputation. Also, you don’t have to portray your exact experience. If you’ve experienced love, maybe you can recontextualise that love in Ancient Greece, for instance! 

The News! 

Still drawing a blank? Your own life not making your creative juices flow? Gross phrase by the way. Turn on the news for five minutes and check out the incredible stories that occur around the world each day. These stories form the basis for some of the most popular forms of entertainment, like crime fiction. Remember, “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder” – G.K. Chesterton. 

Write in Public! 

JK Rowling (who may have been cancelled, I’m not sure) and Donna Tartt talk about writing in coffee shops and libraries, so that if they ever need a new character they just glance up and voila! There they are. You can also overhear snippets of conversation in public places that let you know how people are really talking these days. This is particularly useful for writing that depicts young folks, as the language young people use changes so quickly! Make sure to eavesdrop in a respectful and non creepy way though. Don’t follow anyone!

Writer’s Groups! 

You gotta be in a writer’s group! You know that thing you find hard? So does everyone else. You know that literary comp that you don’t know about yet? Technically you don’t know about it yet but someone in the group you’re going to join does! Thank them for me. Ask your new friends where they find inspiration. Tag along with them to listen to their favourite authors speak. Read the writer’s they recommend, and share the best of your knowledge with them too! Writer’s groups can be an invaluable source of inspiration and friendship!

Check out which form of poetry you should write in here.


Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.

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Five Creative Writing Prompts or Exercises to get you Writing | Writing Journal · 20/04/2021 at 8:21 am

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