The Value of Creative Prompts

A guest post by Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow

Imagine a creative prompt as a hand-written sign that reads, “Exploration Required,” a sign that sets you gently at a random starting point on a path that is not defined. It provides a bit of constraint… an inkling of an idea that might be just the little push you need to get moving.



I played with the idea of “orange + texture” as I stitched together this collage.

Writers have long used prompts to generate story ideas, warm-up for writing sessions and get through dry spells. A creative or writing prompt might comprehend a subject, technique or color palette, providing a running start for a creative project. A visual prompt, such as a photograph, diagram, composition or sketch, can be mined for ideas including topic, style, layout, color palette and mood.

Play with prompts. Remember that there are no “right” answers to a prompt. It’s not a quiz or a test, just a starting point. Twist the phrase around and link it to something in your daily world, in your culture? For example, for the prompt “eyeglasses” you could make a faux movie poster highlighting Harry Potter’s classic specs. Challenge yourself to find an interesting twist, a play on words, a way to go beyond the obvious.

Try prompts devised for another medium. Get out of your comfort zone. Screenwriters can use photographic prompts; doodle artists can do quilt block challenges with a pen instead of a sewing machine. You might find an innovative way to approach your favorite mediums.

Experiment. A prompt can take you in a new, unexpected, unplanned direction. Experiment with combinations that you might not otherwise have tried. Working with a wide variety of ideas and topics builds creative self-confidence. Writing or creating around a fresh, unexpected topic gives your mind a break from your typical {or assigned} work, so that you can return to your work refreshed.

Spin the prompt. Consider the literal and figurative meanings as well as words, symbols and concepts related to the prompt. You could investigate the dictionary definition of each word. Consider the way the words are typically used, plus various connotations. Take it apart. Re-arrange it. Spin it 180 degrees. Use just part of the prompt. Merge two prompts.


Let’s play around with a prompt and see what might happen.

Prompt: Blue Paisley

Where we might go? You might doodle tiny blue paisleys on an index card. Or paint a page-filling sky blue paisley in your art journal and fill it with words related to the word blue. Use the actual words in a short story about a girl named Paisley who wants to save the universe from azurite blue zombies. Carve a paisley shaped eraser stamp to use on your art journal pages. Embroider elaborate paisleys on a pair of jeans with ultramarine, aqua, cobalt and indigo embroidery floss.

Let’s try another prompt.

Grab a pen and a sheet of paper or journal and write the following sentence at the top of the page. Draw an oval around the words and write the numbers 1 through 20 below the sentence. Brainstorm a list of 20 different ways that you could interpret the prompt in your writing or art.

Prompt: “The fluttering leaves of the white birch trees conceal the graffiti lettering on the side of the blue striped train car whirring toward the next station.”


a) Write a short story about band members setting up for a concert in a small city near Amsterdam, anxious about an impending thunderstorm.

b) With a white marker, draw tiny leaves on a background of cerulean blue watercolor paint.

c) Using painter’s tape as a mask, paint blue stripes on your art journal page.

d) Write a haiku about your hectic morning metro commute.

e) Hand-letter a phrase or lyrics in graffiti-style on an art journal page.

f) Learn how to draw tall, elegant birch trees.

g) Turn a journal page sideways {landscape format} and staple metro tickets, subway maps and torn papers to the page.

h) Paint an art journal page silver and steel gray to give it the grungy, metallic feel of a railroad train.


The key is to seek out the type of prompt that works for you. There are prompts galore at Daisy Yellow, including Kick-Start Art Journal Prompts and techniques-based Daily Paper Prompts. There are many sites for writing and creative prompts, including Reddit Writing Prompts, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers and Illustration Friday. Find random prompt generators at I Need a Prompt, Take Three Nouns Prompt and the Almost Totally Random Writing Exercise Generator.

Some artists & writers thrive on prompts; others find that prompts interfere with the creative process. We each create art in a way that works for us. So if a word, phrase or challenge pushes your creative energy forward, that would be a good thing.


tammygarcia-iconTammy Garcia is a mixed-media artist who writes about bringing creativity into your life, one line, one photograph, one drip of paint at a time. Tammy doodles, sews paper, snaps photographs, works in her art journals and blogs at Daisy Yellow at


T2530_ArtJournalKickstarter_CM.inddIf you liked these prompts, you might also enjoy Art Journal Kickstarter edited by Kristy Conlin.

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