Whether to earn money, for school or for pleasure, creative writing is one of the most rewarding experiences out there. When it comes to writing, however, inspiration is not always very easy to find. Maybe you're stumped for school paper ideas, don't know what to write for Info Barrel or simply can't find the right words to write on a card. This time around, before your pen even hits the paper, try some of the following writing prompts to get going. Who knows – you may be the next Shakespeare!

  1. Picture prompts. If your creative writing project has left you feeling anything but, try looking through photographs, magazine and books. For example, if I knew I wanted to write a fiction story about adventure in the outdoors, I'd try flipping through National Geographic. (Try checking out your local library for current and back issues of most major magazines) Gone on any vacations recently? Look through your pictures, or even your friend's pictures on Facebook – maybe someone's had an exciting travel experience that will get you started with a creative writing idea.

    Lake (26389)

    Settled on a photo? This one was taken by the author at Pyramid Lake, in the Nevada desert. Next, try thinking of descriptive words associated with the scene in the picture to refine your idea. For this photo, it would look something like this: arid desert, mysterious pyramid, guarded by rugged mountain ranges and serene clear blue water. With my keywords and photo inspiration all set, I'd be ready to write about a modern-day explorer who took a wrong turn off the Interstate and stumbled upon the mysterious adventure of a lifetime.

  2. Word Prompts. Not able to come up with any creative writing inspiration from photos? Try word prompts instead. Randomly select a book, close your eyes and let it fall open to any page. Point with your eyes closed to a sentence on the page. For this experiment, Hard Times, by Charles Dickens was selected. The sentence? "There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke!" After reading the sentence, take a moment and clear your mind, thinking only of images that the sentence provokes. For example, a creative short story focused on outdoor adventure could be based around a volcano, a fire or the depths of hell. There could be an old house, set at the back of a craggy hill, with the rising mist and smoke gleaming in the moonlight.

  3. Color Prompts. Still can't think of any story ideas? Different colors are heavily associated with feelings, ideas and moods. Quickly make a note of the colors you are wearing today. For example, if the colors were green and blue, writing inspiration could come in the form of an undersea adventure, caught up in the currents of the bottomless ocean, on a mission to find long lost treasure. Wearing tan or brown? How about a tale of a forest, where a mysterious cypress tree stands tall and strong, thought long ago to be extinct.

  4. People Prompts. As we've seen, creative fiction, short story and other writing ideas can come in a variety of forms, and for a variety of literary genres. What if you didn't know what to write on a thank you card? Think about the person you are writing it for. Does he or she have any special qualities? If writing a card for a family member, instead of writing a generic saying, try incorporating those qualities into a personalized greeting. If he or she makes you laugh, how about, "Laughter is precious, when a frown's got you down. Thanks for the smiles, when you come around." For a short story, people prompts can come in the form of not only family members, but celebrities or notable figures as well. Does your adventure story need a little extra twist? Drop in a character modeled on Paris Hilton and see what happens.

Oftentimes when stumped for creative writing inspiration, the problem is not too little to write about, but rather too much. When using prompts for story ideas, try to focus on specifics rather than broad topics, otherwise you may end up feeling overwhelmed, with a bad case of writer's block. Try to make a list or map of your keywords and ideas for reference and inspiration in your writing. Most importantly, remember that creative writing should be fun! If you're feeling stressed out, don't push it. Take a walk, listen to some music, and try not to chase down inspiration – clear your mind, and the ideas will follow. Happy writing!