Five Strategies for Writing

One of my objectives as a teacher is to have my students write every single day.

It’s also one of my goals as a writer. Even if I don’t hit publish on it, I sometimes need to “empty out the trash” in my head to get to the story “behind my eyes.”

Over the years I have used a bunch of things to generate content–including prompts–but I have found giving students (and myself) a strategy instead of a topic opens up the gates for MORE content and better content because it’s self-generated. This means that whatever it is that gets written about is something that the writer wants to write about and is personal.

Below are five strategies* I use often with my students…and for myself.



Write from a List

Many of us do this, right? Some of us keep little notebooks or scraps of paper or we use our drafts folder, but we have a list somewhere of possible blogging topics. Sometimes I just sit down and make Top Five Lists: five best experiences of my life, five worst experiences of my life, five things that surprise me, five things I love about my husband, five things I’ve done lately, five places I’ve been, etc.

After making a list I choose something to just freewrite about. You should see my draft folder. It’s a hot mess. There are started posts, there are posts that have lists in them with freewriting with them. I go to those posts and read around for something that inspires me and I often cut/paste stuff into a new post and boom! Something to hit publish on!

Writing off Literature

This is one I use with my students a lot and have recently found works well for me too. Writers are readers…at least they should be. I think it was Stephen King who said that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write; his point being that you can’t be a good writer without reading.  Writers live and breathe via words both taken in and written out.

“Good readers are thinking while they read,” and not just about the plot, but about the ideas. “Stories inspire stories.” Ideas inspire ideas.

You could even expand this to be Writing Off Lyrics or Poetry or Articles.  I get inspired by speeches and sermons and news clips.

Again I have quotes from these sources in draft–some with freewriting, some not–just waiting to be fleshed out.

Writing from a Word

This one is fairly simple: you pick a word, write it down and freewrite about it. I give my students a part of speech to pick like, “choose a verb, write it at the top of your paper.  Now write.”  It sounds so elementary, but when I do it myself (usually I pick a FEEEEELING word, but sometimes I choose something a students said, or a word I read, or something one of the boys said, whatever), I find I can get some of my best writing.  I’ve even written some not too shabby poetry that way.

Lifting a Line

This is one I have already alluded to in previous strategies. The idea is to go back through your writing (could be published or not) and “lift a line” that jumps out at you. Take that line and write it at the top of your entry. I’ve had students (and myself) do two things with this. Either write from that line as inspiration OR use that line exactly somewhere in a new piece.

I’ve also used this in class (and on my own) in conjunction with Writing off Literature. Pick a line from a text and either use it as inspiration or quote it in your piece.

Three by Threes

Choose a noun and give yourself three minutes to write as many three-word phrases about that noun as you can.  For example “School” could be the noun and a three-word phrase would be “seven period days”. The idea is to focus on the subject. It narrows down broad subjects.

Sometimes as writers we know we want to write about a big topic, but if we just start writing, soon we have 1,00+ word posts that no one will want to read! If you want to write about pregnancy, maybe give yourself three minutes to come up with as many three-word phrases about pregnancy as you can.  This will help you find a more focused subject for a post.


Hopefully you will find that these strategies help you if you get stuck. I have great success with them producing better writing from my students than just handing them a generic prompt that they may or may not care about.  All of these strategies start from personal choice and head into personal writing.

Have you used any of these strategies before? How do you come up with your blogging/writing content?

*Names for strategies and quotes come from the book Notebook Know How by Aimee Buckner (not an affiliate link). I have used all of these strategies myself and with my students.

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