Everything has its season – including writing prompts. No matter if you’re craving more time for personal reflection in your nonfiction, story-starting launchpads for your fiction, or professional organization in your writing life, this seasonal-driven selection of exercises will keep your creative wells filled all year long. First on the docket? Winter, of course.
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1. Write about a memory that epitomizes cozy for you. What makes this memory feel so warm and snug? What concrete details can you add to make the scene feel lushly atmospheric on the page?
2. The dark and cold of winter can make it a hated season for many. If winter is something you tolerate instead of celebrate, what makes it pass easier for you? What helps spring come a little more quickly? If you were giving advice to someone enduring their first winter in your climate, what insights would you offer them?
3. What is your favorite winter activity? How would you describe it to someone who had never encountered it before? How could you describe the joy it brings you?
4. What did Valentine’s Day mean to you as a child, and what does it mean to you now? Write about a particularly memorable Valentine’s Day you experienced; alternatively, write about your relationship (or lack thereof) with the controversial holiday.
5. What metaphorical stores do you find running low this time of year? Do you notice a lack of inspiration, motivation, ambition, or cheer? Which tanks start to feel depleted as the dark days drag on? Making note of them now, in the dead of winter, will help you better prepare for next year when autumn rolls around.
1. Take some time in the first quarter of the year to sort out your goals for 2022. How would you like to organize the year’s intentions and deadlines: By month, by season, by first half and second? Then ask: What would you like to accomplish and when? What tools and resources would help you hit your targets? What steps can you take in winter that will set you up for success all year long?
2. The start of a new year is a good time to establish any new boundaries you need to enforce, whether they’re with clients, editors, or family members. Are you changing your professional policies or expected response times? Is now finally the time to establish how much you abhor phone calls instead of emails (or vice versa)? Do you need to claim more uninterrupted no-matter-what writing time for yourself? Tell the people in your writing life what you need to thrive – remember, they’ll never know unless you tell them.
3. New year, new author website – or at least a newly refreshed one. Update the copyright year, add any new clips, re-evaluate your rates, post any upcoming professional events and appearances, and make sure everything’s in good working order for the year ahead.
4. You hate it. We know. But don’t let those unpaid invoices from 2021 languish for too long in the new year; now’s the time to follow up on them.
5. The peace of post-holiday winter offers ideal conditions for research deep dives that demand quiet and focus. Go ahead, check out that nonfiction book you’ve been meaning to read. Pore over historical archives. Seek out a documentary or podcast series that will inform your work. Make a list of unanswered questions in your current writing project and identify the sources that will help you resolve them.
1. Snow isn’t just pretty to look at: It can be a powerful fuel for a plot engine, too. Imagine a character who wants something desperately, but a sudden snowstorm throws a wrench in their plans. Are they headed to accept a stunning, career-changing award, and a blizzard cancels their flight? Is a trip to Labor and Delivery periled by an unexpected whiteout? Is your protagonist suddenly snowbound with their worst enemy? The choice is yours – just make sure the stakes feel high and crystal-clear to both reader and characters.
2. Imagine someone who cannot abide the cold being forced to journey to the iciest of climates. What is their reaction to the weather? How does it feel? How does the temperature inform their actions? How can you describe the sensation of cold for someone who is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with it?
3. Alternatively, imagine a traditionally frigid landscape enduring a bizarre hot spell in winter, whether as a freak one-time event or a harbinger of a forever-changed climate. How does this change affect its residents? How do they cope? What changes are in store for this community?
4. Humans have recently developed the ability to hibernate. The mechanics of this discovery – the seasons that can be skipped, the reasoning behind it, the consequences of hibernation – are up to you. How does this discovery affect your character and the world they inhabit? Does your character decide to take advantage of it? Why or why not?
5. The Super Bowl may dominate wintertime sports sections, but it’s far from the only athletic pursuit to be enjoyed in the colder months. Write about a character who participates in a lesser-known wintertime sport, be it luge, bobsledding, biathlon, or speed skating. Why do they feel drawn to this sport? What does it mean to them? What challenges must they overcome to achieve their athletic dreams?
—Nicki Porter served as the editor of The Writer from 2016 to 2022; she previously served as its associate editor. Before helming The Writer, she worked as a food editor for Madavor Media and America’s Test Kitchen. She’s also written for a number of publications and spoken at writing conferences across the country. Learn more at nickiporter.com.
Want more inspiration? Try these seasonal reads
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan