Writing Magic in Minutes

15 Minute Writing Prompts

Our most creative and original writing is often spontaneous and intuitive. Responding to writing prompts within a limited time frame can help you to write without over-thinking.  This is why I offer fifteen minute writing prompts in workshops and classes.

Over the years I’ve discovered that some of the best stories participants have generated have been the result of fifteen minute writing prompts.

Recently I assigned a writing prompt inspired by Cheryl Crow’s lyrics from My Favorite Mistake.

Writing prompt: Write a story that is mostly dialogue, and incorporate the line “You are my favorite mistake.”

Here are examples of participants’ responses, and their thoughts on fifteen minute writing prompts:

by JoAnne Chirico, founder, goodlinens studio, and writer:

surrounded by reminders of my many mistakes


where I’ve transgressed


I’ve disappointed 

entire towns

I’ve written off but through which I must drive 

a volcano of mistakes

each one worse than the last

you’d think it would be the opposite

but mistakes

I keep making them

trying to learn if I can make another like you

my favorite mistake

JoAnne’s thoughts on 15-minute writing prompts: “In the past, having big chunks of writing time created a paralysis in me.  I became overwhelmed by how much I SHOULD produce with this time abundance. Enter Ellen’s 15-minute writing prompts.  No time to talk myself out of an idea once I’m off and running.  Somehow, each prompted session has allowed me to wrap up a thought. Writing prompts have strengthened my writing muscle and made me a more prolific writer.”  

By Maureen Neville, designer and writer:

“Momma, Am I your favorite?” The child asked. 

“You are my most favorite mistake.” The mother replied.

“And what about Sally – was she a mistake too?” The child pushed further.

“No. Sally was planned, making her my most favorite plan” The mother responded

“Was daddy a mistake?” The child inquired.

“No. daddy was a happy accident but not a mistake- making him the best accident ever.” Said the mother.

The child then asked: “How about Shiloh our cat – was she a mistake?”

And the mother replied: “No. Shiloh was an opportunity, making you my only favorite mistake”

“Will you make another mistake?” The child asked with a look of concern.

“No.” the mother replied.

Maureen’s thoughts on 15-minute writing prompts : “Writing prompts get you out of your head and draw from an innate, unconscious place where story exists inside of you. Every time we do an in-class writing prompt,  I am always amazed by the results: with each person in the class finding story in their own way and in their own voice as writers. Over time, these prompts have helped me see and develop my unique perspective and style.

By Peter Dolan, mathematician and writer:

You’re my favorite mistake.

 But not your only?


 Better than your worst mistake?

By definition.

 But not your last mistake?


 One you’ve learned from?


 So not really a mistake?



Peter’s thoughts on 15-minute writing prompts: “There is something beneficial about limiting the number of words, or drawing from a palette that’s limited or subject to other requirements, or both.”