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Non-fiction writing prompts for summer

Summer is on the horizon, which means wide open outdoors spaces, giving writers plenty of opportunity to bring their notebook or laptop outside to do some daily writing. There’s nothing quite like sunrise, sunset, fresh air, and the sounds of nature to get one’s creative juices flowing. If you can, steal some time by a lake, or in the woods, or on the beach to see how your writing feels different when it’s happening in a serene natural setting.

While some writers will use this new outdoor space and time to work on long-form projects, others may either be looking to start a journaling practice or to explore new ideas for nonfiction projects. In both of these cases, writing prompts may help to inspire new ideas and act as a way into writing. This is particularly useful if you’ve taken some time off of daily journaling or daily writing, but really, writing prompts can be helpful to all writers at all levels of regular writing commitment.

Below are some writing prompts for summer. Many of them aren’t really seasonally-specific, but a few are. Give yourself a solid chunk of time to explore each of these ideas. Some ideas for how you might tackle this list:

  • You could decide to start from the top and work your way to the bottom, taking on one writing prompt a day.
  • Some writers really don’t want to know what to expect from a writing prompt — the surprise of suddenly having to write about something is part of the exercise for them. For those writers, it might make sense to pick a random prompt from the list each day. To really make it random, you can use this online tool to generate a random number before you sit down to write.
  • You could decide to do multiple prompts in one day. In that case, take your total writing time and divide it up by how many writing prompts you want to take on that day. Set an alarm for yourself so you know when to move on from one prompt to the next.
  • For a different take on the first tip, you could always start at the bottom of the list and make your way to the top. The real overarching idea is that this list, though created by someone else, is really yours to make your own.

Now, for the prompts!

  1. Go outside and sit down. Inhale deeply. What do you smell? Describe each morsel of scent reaching your nose in detail, and imagine where it may have come from. Is there pollen? Grass? Something someone is cooking wafting out their window and into the air?
  2. Sit near an open window or go outside. Close your eyes and listen to all of the sounds around you. Write them down, first just by making a simple list. Then, for each one, get more detailed with your writing. Actually describe the sound as though you’re talking to someone who can’t hear it and has no reference point. What would you tell them it sounds like?
  3. Write about a place you’ve visited and how it made you feel. Did you feel different there than you do wherever you are right now? What types of feelings did that place inspire in you? Why did it make you feel that way?
  4. What is a food you like to eat that is only available in the summer months? What memories do you have attached to that food? When is the earliest you can remember eating it? Do you eat it every year? Is it both seasonal and regional? If so, did you ever spend time away from your region and miss the food? Did you try to recreate it?
  5. Think about one celebration you tend to attend in the summer months. What happens at it? Describe it in detail, and what it means to you. Why do you return to it each year, or at least with some frequency?
  6. What is something that happens in your region — your yard, your town, your state — that doesn’t happen in other regions? How would you describe that thing to someone who was from a totally different place and had never lived where you do?
  7. Did you ever attend summer camp as a kid? Describe what it was like there. Who were you friends with? What did you eat? Did you sleep at the camp, or go home at the end of each day? What is a specific feeling, smell or place that was there and, if you were to encounter it today, would remind you of that camp?
  8. Where is your favorite place to swim? Describe the surroundings in detail. What does it feel like to plunge into that body of water? How is it different from other places?
  9. If you could be anywhere but where you are right now, where would you go? Why? What’s it like there?
  10. Pick a season that isn’t summer. Now that you have some distance from it, write about it. What strikes you? What qualities of that season jump out of your memory, asking to be written about? What do you miss about that season? What do you not miss?

Hopefully, these summer writing prompts will get your creative juices flowing and will help you get into the practice of noticing your surroundings, being mindful of the moment you’re in, and recognizing the beauty of your everyday surroundings as well as your memories. Enjoy!

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Lauren Harkawik
Author

Lauren Harkawik

Lauren Harkawik is a journalist, essayist, and fiction writer based in Vermont. You can read her writing on her website.

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