Writing Prompts to Inspire Play

Posted on Sep 17, 2017

kids drawing

Play is one of those things that easily drops out of my life when I’m not intentional about keeping it here. Chores: check. Work: check. Relaxation: check. Play: wait, what’s play?

Today I’ve put together some of my favorite writing prompts to inspire play. Plus, you’ll find a straightforward way to add more play to your life right now.

Many of these prompts are inspired by Julia Cameron’s bestselling book The Artist’s Way. If you’re looking to really pump up the creativity + play in your life, check it out!

Why Writing Prompts?

I love writing prompts. Why? They can help us hear what our essential self might be saying.

Martha Beck writes that everyone has two important selves that work together: a social self + an essential self. Your social self is formed by what you learn from others. Your essential self is your truer self. It is your personality, your innate skills, your interests.

Imagine someone is telling you a really boring story. How do you act? You might nod along to be polite. You might rehearse the line you’ll use to end the conversation. Now picture instead a four-year-old kid listening to this boring story. What’s the kid do? She might interrupt, or turn and run off to play. In general, kids have had less time to learn our social rules – so their behavior leans towards essential self.

As adults, many of us are so used to bending to the social norms that we can’t even hear our essential self. Writing prompts are one way to access that quiet voice and learn who we truly are.

Before You Start

Some suggestions… Find a quiet place without interruptions. Write quickly without censoring yourself. Be open. What you write might not make sense – that’s ok. Just write. We’re playing here. You can do nothing wrong!

These prompts allow you to flow back and forth between quick brainstorming sessions and longer, deeper writing sessions. Take your time, allowing whatever feels right. Or, time yourself – say, 2 minutes for each brainstorming session + 6 minutes for each deep writing session.

Finally, as you drop into the deeper writing sessions, write with all of your senses…

What might you see? (Who are you with? Are you inside or outside?)
What do you hear? (Animals? Bustling city streets? Someone praising you?)
What can you touch? (Cool air conditioning on your skin? Sore muscles?)
What might you smell? (Earthy clay? Chlorine?)
What do you taste? (Freshly baked cookies? Tart lemonade?)

Playful Writing Prompts

Close your eyes or soften your gaze and take at least 3 deep belly breaths.

Lovely! Let’s begin.

1) List 5 or more classes that sound fun.

2) List 5+ skills that would be fun to have.

3) Pick 1 of the 10+ things you wrote down. Imagine you’re in that class, or you’re practicing that skill, right now. Imagine you’re really good at it. Close your eyes and vividly imagine this world. Write about this experience in as much detail as possible. 

4) List 5+ hobbies that sound fun.

5) List 5+ things you used to enjoy doing.

6) Pick 1 of the 10+ things you wrote down. Imagine you’re doing that thing, whatever it is, right now. Write about this experience in as much detail as possible. 

7) List 5+ silly things you’d like to try once.

8) List 5+ things you personally would never do that sound fun.

9) Again, pick 1 of the 10+ things you wrote down. Have some fun imagining that you’re doing that silly thing, or that thing you’d never do. Close your eyes for a moment. What’s it like? Write about this experience in as much detail as possible. 

Add More Play to your Life Right Now

How can you live this playfulness this week? First, right now, pick 2 things from any of your lists. Maybe you pick something that’s your favorite. Maybe you pick one that you’ve avoided for a while.

Next, from each of those 2 things, come up with a goal that you can complete in the next week. It doesn’t have to be major. It can be the tiniest of baby steps. If you picked photography, you might set out to take 20 photos with your phone this week. If you mentioned reading poetry, maybe you’ll want to head to the library over your lunch break one day. 

Finally, commit to your goals. You might share them with a friend, or post them somewhere highly visible. But most importantly, decide to make play a priority.

Have fun!