This is a writing prompt from Massachusetts-based writer Carolyn Zaikowski. She recently won the Civil Coping Mechanisms 'Mainline' manuscript award, and her book A Child is Being Killed can be admired and bought here. Today she provides us with this monster prompt, which is really many, many little prompts that you can use to write for as long as it takes to fill a notebook. It first appeared as "sensory/somatic warm-ups & writing prompts for writing for as long as it takes to fill up a notebook without stopping", on Carolyn's blog, life roar.

We'd love to hear how you go with this/these - jump on the workshop and share your work, and remember to include "(WP)" in the title so we know that it's a prompt response!


Because I have massive, long-term writer’s block, I decided to sit down one night (Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7PM) and write for as long as it took to fill up a notebook. I invited everyone on Facebook to do it with me.

Below is a list of sensory/somatic writing warm-up suggestions that came to mind. Below that, there’s a list of writing prompts I’ve compiled. The prompts are inspired by suggestions from Facebook friends who were interested in the shared writing spree, Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments, Charles Bernstein’s writing experiments, some tidbits at Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost blog, Peter Elbow’s “metaphors for priming the pump”, several things that flashed into my mind whose origins I’m not sure of but that I’m pretty sure didn’t originate in my brain, and a couple I think I made up.

Here you go:


-Do a jumping jack, push-up, or sit-up, then write a thought. Do another jumping jack, push-up, or sit-up, then write a thought. Repeat
-Write slowly or quickly
-Write standing, sitting, lying down
-Write on your knees, as if begging
-Pick a favorite dance move. Do the move, write a thought… do the move, write a thought. Repeat
-Dance very slowly with your notebook as a dance partner while writing
-Kiss the page, write a line, kiss the page, write a line. Repeat
-Incorporate writing into a favorite stretch or yoga posture
-Spin your body around and around until you don’t feel right, then write a paragraph. Repeat
-Write in different rooms, in/on different pieces of furniture, in the closet, at a locked door, standing on a bed, standing with feet on different stairs, etc.
-Write while on the toilet
-Write while holding your breath
-Write while breathing really slowly
-Self-induce hyperventilation by breathing too fast/too much, then write
-Scream, then write a line or paragraph. Whisper, then write a line or paragraph. Sigh, groan, sing, then write a line or paragraph, etc.
-Say, yell, whisper, or sing everything you write out loud while writing it
-Write while making different facial expressions (smile, frown, pursed lips, raised eyebrows, clenched jaw, etc.)
-Stare at a lit lightbulb for too long, then write
-Write without blinking for as long as possible, blink, then repeat
-Write while listening to unpleasant noises (loud alarms, music you hate, recording of a baby crying, etc.) or pleasant noises (ocean or bird sound CDs, music you like, etc.)
-Write while tapping or shaking your feet or legs
-Write while keeping your body as still or rigid as possible
-Write with one leg or arm in the air
-Write naked or with only one item of clothing on (a shoe, a shirt)
-Write wearing clothes that make you feel really good or really uncomfortable/ugly
-Write with too many clothes or blankets on
-Write in front of a blowing fan
-Write while gripping or balancing a heavy thing in your other hand (weight, rock, computer)
-Write while gripping or balancing a light thing in your other hand (sheet of paper, rice cracker)
-Write with an ice cube in your other hand. Don’t stop till it melts
-Write with one or both feet in hot or cold water. Don’t stop till the water becomes tepid


Write about someone else’s memories

Write about someone else’s recurring dreams

Write yourself in love with someone you find totally despicable

13 ways of looking at a _____
12 ways of looking at a _____

Know you’ll burn it in the morning

Know it’ll burn you in the morning

Write a slightly different version of the same sentence, phrase, or paragraph 20 times

Write the same sentence, phrase, or paragraph in as many different tenses and points of view as you can think of

Use science, religion, or psychology terms to talk about a subject or object

Lie about a memory or tell it the wrong way by accident

Write about an object or subject from all possible emotional states

Write every possible scenario of rain, wind, and sun you can conceive of

Think of a subject, then write while absolutely avoiding writing about that subject

Write something that isn’t funny

Write something that isn’t sad

Write about the most difficult thing to write about

Describe seven types of anxiety, despair, confusion, joy, anger, and/or disgust

Take the first line of a poem or story and write from there

Write about a shadow

Write about dreams you do and don’t want to have

Write while listening to your favorite or least favorite song

Write while listening to a song you’ve never heard before

Translate yourself from your inner child’s point of view

Translate yourself from an elderly person’s point of view

Translate something from the ground’s point of view

“If… then”

“I used to… but now”

Make a list of the first things that come to mind. Write a sentence or paragraph about each of those things

Quick: Write a religious manifesto and try to get others to really believe in it

Negate every sentence and paragraph you just wrote

Lines and lines starting “I remember”

Lines and lines starting “I wish”

You’re a prisoner with one piece of paper. Write

Write about a problem that has no solution

Write about a solution that has no problem

Write about the fact that all bodies die

Write a paragraph about each thing you can think of that arises and falls

Pick an abstract concept (scientific, philosophical, ethical). What’s its form? Shape? Movement? Color? Why? How does it appear at its healthiest? At its weakest? How does it fly its flag? How does its write its poetry?

Say all of the opposite things possible about what you love, what you hate, and what you find neutral

Write about how to make the last day of the earth’s existence an awesome day worth living

Write about something you hate and make it beautiful and worthy

Find a photo, painting, or drawing. Write its story

Write the history of all the sounds you know

Write about changes, turning points, hinges, thresholds

Let a place describe you

Write about a border

Talk about the history of a body part, of everything it has done, what it knows, what it has seen, its wisdom, its folly

Write about how all the materials are defective

Write about how all the systems are defective

Pick a thing and write about how to save it

Pick a thing and write about how to love it

Write all possible versions of god and non-god

Write like an emergency is happening

Write specifics from each year of your life/someone else’s life

Write about all possible addictions. Explain them, how they happen, their rituals, their purpose, their cure

Write about mysterious inanimate objects

Write about not needing permission to do something you love and/or are afraid of

Pick two things. Write a connection or road between them. Narrate a path. Grow flowers there.


Carolyn Zaikowski is the author of two novels, A Child Is Being Killed (Aqueous Books, 2013) and In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016.) Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared widely. She can be found at


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Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.