Writing prompts are short topics intended to spur you to write. That’s their function. They could be something like this one from Toasted Cheese from March the first, Use the phrase “Like a lion”. This is a prompt that leaves the topic open, but you need to work in that phrase somehow. That leaves you wriggle room or ways to use the prompt to help you in your own project. I like that kind of prompt. It’s freer than one that gives you a time of day to work into your story or one that says write about x. I find those hard to do. I also like the ones Toasted Cheese gives where they give you five unrelated words and tell you to use them in a piece. It can be a challenge, but I find them fun.
They may not always work for your purpose, but if you are stuck, they can help by getting you writing something. Sometimes when you are working on a project, the words don’t come. A writing prompt may not get you writing on the project you want to write on, but they can trigger another piece. This is good because sometimes all you need is to switch projects to get the one you want to work on a rest. Then go back to it and you should be able to write more in it.
I visit a couple of sites for prompts. My go-to site is Toasted Cheese, found at http://www.toasted-cheese.com/webcal/webcal.cgi. It’s a month’s worth of prompts in calendar view. You can change that to a list. You aren’t required to write a particular day’s prompt. You could use one for past days or future ones. It doesn’t matter. It only depends on what you want to write about.
Another site I use on occasion is Reedsy at https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/ another good source is https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts. There are many sites on the internet, just google it and find one that suits you.
Another source of sparks for writing comes from tv commercials, books and newspapers. Just don’t go too deeply into them. Skim the surface. Then write the story. I’ve found song lyrics can do this for me. Take the song Norwegian Wood, by the Beatles. At the beginning of the song a woman takes a guy to her room, “isn’t it good? Norwegian Wood.” At the end of the song, the guy wakes up and the woman has gone to work. So he lit a fire, “isn’t it good? Norwegian Wood.” I’ve always wondered if they meant to imply arson.
A writing prompt is not meant to stress you out. You can use them or not, unless you have a teacher giving them to you. Check them out. See what works for you. If you are blocked, they just might be able to unblock you. If nothing else, they can trigger a brainstorming session which could be just what you need. So the next time you feel unable to write or you don’t have a clue what to write, try one. You might like the result.