Prompting my way out of writer’s block

Photo by on

I rarely use writing prompts.

Tutors use them in classes so that beginners have something to bite on. I might not always enjoy using them but I understand why other people do and why they’re a popular writing exercise. There’s an entire universe to write about out there. Prompts fence off a lot of white noise.

I say that I rarely use writing prompts but I do write short stories that align with a competition’s theme, and I guess that’s a kind of prompt.

And I’m writing this post from a prompt.

I’d…


Even if they don’t expect to win

Photo by on

When you’re new to writing it can feel as if you’re writing in a vacuum.

You might also be writing for a college professor or tutor, a friend or your peers, a parent or a writer’s group, but there’s nothing quite like writing for strangers or having your work read by one, and why not a competition judge?

Why competitions are ideal for new writers

Writing for competitions is the easiest way to shake off the aspiring writer label because submitting to them means you’re more than just aspiring, you’re doing — you’re a writer.

Writing is hard, and there’s a long road ahead of you so…


And do something fun with the earnings

Photo by on

Submitting work is a numbers game.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s short stories or screenplays, manuscripts or magazine articles because if you keep writing and keep submitting, something will stick.

The more work you put out there, the better the odds it’ll find a home.

The problem is that the more work you send out into the wild, the more rejection you’ll face. As a new (or even as an experienced writer), that can be difficult to deal with.

How I’m Submitting More in 2020

In 2019, I submitted 7 pieces of work.

That’s ridiculous.

I look at that number and I’m annoyed with myself.

I…


But I’m not a convert just yet

Photo by on

I was running last week and my headphones broke.

I was gutted.

I hated the thought of running without them.

People who swear by it can often get a little evangelical like those who insist on the power of being at your desk at 5 am or putting spirulina in your smoothie.

I’ve always thought that jogging with no sound would be hellish.

Maybe if I lived in a place of outstanding natural beauty then I’d be more tempted. I appreciate the casual magic of running by the ocean or through stunning forest trails.

My run takes me up the…


I’ll probably still hate morning pages

Photo by on

It turns out that I’ll do anything to avoid actually writing.

I’m about to take a deep-dive into The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a book offering a ‘spiritual path to higher creativity’.

Okay, so it sounds a bit hooey, but I did try it for couple of weeks last year and became something of a convert.

Although, I’ll admit I struggled with morning pages.

I say struggled, I flat-out hated them.

But it’s 2020 and the word has gone to hell in a bottle of hand sanitizer so what the hell?

The Problem Isn’t Always My Writing

One of my biggest reasons for getting back…


Depending on how far you’re running

Photo by on

I was five days away from running my first half-marathon when I got sick.

It was just a regular cough and cold but I felt terrible, and I couldn’t believe the bad timing.

I’m certainly not an elite athlete but my training had gone from a standing start (quite literally) to running regularly for 90 minutes+ in just a few months.

During the last couple of weeks before the event, I was running further and harder than before. …


Paul isn’t dead in this one

Photo by on

Editing your work is hard.

Our brains get used to reading our mistakes and our eyes can easily miss grammar and punctuation errors.

I always put a piece to one side for a day or so before doing a final edit. You’re far more likely to find the smaller mistakes by putting some distance between you and your work.

But it’s not always possible to put a piece of work to one side. We don’t always have the time to let things sit. I’m struggling with this at the moment.

I’ve set myself the challenge of 5 Medium posts a…


Because they’re small but mighty

Photo by on

I’ve been meaning to read more short stories.

It’s ridiculous, right?

I’m a short story author.

I write short fiction regularly, and I enter competitions and submit work to websites and journals.

I should be reading a lot of short fiction both to learn something and for enjoyment but I’ve struggled to make it a habit.

I blame high school.

I can still remember making pencil scratches in the margins of anthologies about similes and metaphors in short stories and poems that just didn’t resonate with me.

But then we were studying to pass exams…


And does it matter?

Photo by on

I’m pretty new to Welsh so I’m coming at this from a beginner’s perspective.

At the start of the Say Something in Welsh course (which I’d highly recommend), you can choose to do either a Northern or Southern Welsh course.

I chose North because my Nana’s family lived in Blaenau Ffestiniog and I thought it would be a neat idea to learn the dialect that they’d have spoken, but I could just as easily have opted for the other.

It doesn’t really matter which you choose.

You’ll find more Welsh speakers in South Wales (although, there’s a higher concentration of…


Mainly it’s telling GET STARTED ALREADY!

Photo by on

I’m a better runner than I am a novel planner.

It’s not that I’m a particularly talented runner. It’s just that I regularly run even on the days I don’t want to. I set an alarm, I get out of bed, put on my running shoes and I go.

Want to read this story later? Save it in .

I keep saying I’ll start working on a novel but then I don’t.

What is Couch to 5K?

Couch to 5K is a running plan for people who don’t run or for anyone who hasn’t run in a long time (5 kilometres is a little over…

Susan James

short fiction writer of average height.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store