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When you think about communication skills, you probably don’t think about creative writing — you might think of presentations, emails, small talk, or business meetings. But what if I told you that creative writing could help improve your ability to communicate in all of those settings? That spending even just a few minutes every day with a pen and a notebook could help make you a more eloquent, effective, and engaging communicator?
It might sound crazy, but just hear me out for a minute.
The Benefits of Creative Writing
First and foremost, the creative writing process is great for flexing your problem-solving muscles. When you’re brainstorming, you’ll often have half-formed ideas in your head or a number of concepts that contradict each other. And you’ll have to make all of it work by getting creative; you might rework some of your ideas or add a new element that lets them mesh together.
The same is true during the writing process; you might be half-way through your project when you realize that one character doesn’t have a backstory. Or that the world your story takes place on couldn’t possibly exist. And you’ll have to come up with a way to reconcile those things.
These types of problems don’t come up in the places where you generally need to use your communication skills, but training your brain to use creative methods of problem-solving is fantastically useful when it comes to presenting ideas in a clear and orderly way.
Similarly, spending time writing creatively will teach you to cut out unnecessary “fluff” from your writing. Many great authors are extremely verbose, but in general, you’ll probably find that your writing can be pared down quite a bit from your first draft. And that’s a really useful skill for when you’re doing any other kind of writing.
And let’s not forget that creative writing, even though it’s not always obvious, requires that you put forth an idea, clearly elucidate it, and develop it throughout the piece. And those skills form the foundation of communicative skills.
How to Use Creative Writing Prompts
One of the best things about using creative writing prompts is that there really are no rules. Many times, the prompts come with suggestions about how to go about the writing process, but you can completely ignore them if you want. Just do whatever you feel like.
You could read one in the morning, keep it in the back of your mind all day, and spend an hour writing before bed. You could read the prompt and immediately write for 10 minutes and be done, content in the knowledge that you exercised your creative faculties. Maybe you’ll read a prompt and use it to create a story over the course of the next month. There are no rules. You don’t even have to follow the prompt! If you’re feeling inspired to work on another idea, you can do that.
At first, you might not feel like you’re being creative. If you’re out of practice, your brain’s creative abilities will take a while to get warmed up. That’s okay. Just be consistent about doing it, and it’ll get easier. Writing every day is best, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. If that seems like too much, do it a few times a week. Just make sure to stick with the habit!
Beyond that, you can do whatever you want. Write in a notebook. Write on your computer. (I highly recommend using a notebook and a pen, though; there’s something special about writing by hand that makes the experience much better.) You can write collaboratively with someone else. Or share your work online. There’s no limit to the things you can do; start experimenting, and you’ll find what’s best for you!
Finding the Best Creative Writing Prompts for You
So how do you go about finding creative writing prompts? We’ve previously pointed out a number of sources, including these six sites and these ten more. But there are a lot of great places to find writing prompts out there, and there’s almost certainly one that will fit your style.
For example, I’m a big fan of the creative prompts Chuck Wendig, a science fiction and fantasy writer, posts on his blog. On Fridays, he posts flash fiction challenges, using a number of ways to come up with writing prompts.
I also very much enjoy /r/WritingPrompts, as there are a really wide variety of prompts that show up there, from fan fiction to quotes from famous authors. And lots of people post their writings as comments on the prompts, so you can see what other people are up to for inspiration.
On Twitter, the #writingprompts hashtag can be another good way to get ideas for what to write. You’ll find all sorts of things here — creative ideas, poetry, questions, and interesting challenges like this one:
— Tablo Prompts (@tablo_prompts) September 27, 2016
In short, there’s a nearly infinite supply of creative writing prompts out there that will help you get started on your creative writing journey. You just have to find one or a few that appeal to you. Eventually, you may even find that your brain is coming up with its own prompts and you don’t need to go look for them anymore!
Get Started Today
Starting a creative writing habit can be intimidating — but you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Start small, with just a few lines in a notebook, or a quick outline on your phone. You don’t need to start writing a novel — just get your brain thinking in a new way. After a while, you’ll look at it not as a habit you’re trying to build, but as a hobby you enjoy! (And you’ll help improve your communication skills. What’s not to love?)
Do you practice creative writing regularly? Where do you find the best prompts? Do you think they help your communication skills? Share your thoughts in the comments below!