Write It Sideways

50 Prompts for Writing What You Already Know

I know I’m always saying writers should get out of their comfort zones, but today I want to take a slightly different perspective.

While I firmly believe it’s essential to try new things, experiment with your voice and generally widen your writing horizons, there’s also a serene beauty in writing what you know.

You’re constantly surrounded by springboards for stories. They exist within the experiences you have every day, the memories you hold from yesterday, the things you’ll see tomorrow.

I believe you can happily embrace the things you know while still giving yourself the opportunity to try new things.

Stop and think whether there might be a story in some of these everyday prompts:

  1. How you came up with the name for your first pet
  2. Why you hated your Kindergarten teacher
  3. Rivalry with a sibling
  4. Where you thought babies came from
  5. Your first haircut
  6. That time you fell off your bicycle
  7. What you took when no one was looking
  8. Your first crush
  9. What you had hidden in your bottom drawer
  10. The secret you never told your best friend
  11. The book you read and re-read as a kid
  12. Where you went the first time you skipped school
  13. The moment when everything in your world changed
  14. How you felt when you went away to summer camp
  15. What you’re like when you get angry
  16. Who you think you really are, or could be
  17. What you sing when you think no one is listening
  18. What you were feeling when that photo was taken
  19. Where you go to be by yourself
  20. Who you secretly dislike
  21. Who you secretly love
  22. The person who meant a lot to you but you’ll probably never see again
  23. What you would do differently next time
  24. What you’d be ashamed to tell your parents
  25. How you really feel about your job
  26. What makes you the happiest
  27. Who you will be ten years from now
  28. Who you were ten years ago
  29. Your deepest fear
  30. What you heard out the window
  31. What you heard when you were eavesdropping
  32. What you most resent in life
  33. What you believe in
  34. Your greatest talent
  35. Your biggest weakness
  36. The place you’ve always wanted to travel to
  37. The person you find most difficult to understand
  38. The story your grandfather always told you
  39. What makes you the most embarrassed
  40. How you really feel about your friends’ kids
  41. The greatest disappointment of your life
  42. How other people would describe you
  43. What you hate most about the holidays
  44. The gift you were given that you pretended to like
  45. What you will always consider to be your home
  46. The song you listen to on repeat
  47. What you think about when you’re driving in your car
  48. What could have happened if you’d taken a different path
  49. Who loves you more than anything else in the world
  50. What you hope no one ever finds out about you

Of course, probably none of these would make good stories on their own, but they’re starting points. All you need is one open-ended thought to trigger the imagination.

Do you prefer to write about what you know, or do you like to challenge yourself to write on subjects you need to research?

How often do your stories arise out of something you’ve personally experienced?