Two Psychology-Themed Writing Prompts

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Recently I shared my opinion that every writer needs a folder of idea snippets. These are stories you’d like to tell, but by themselves, they just don’t come together as a cohesive article. Maybe the stories, standing alone, would be entertaining to the reader, but you don’t yet see how they’d lead to a valuable takeaway.

Don’t delete your idea snippets. They may be the perfect complement to another partial idea that comes along at a later time. Review your idea snippet folder regularly, and see if any of your snippets fit together.

Today Id like to take that concept a step further. I’d like to share a couple of my ideas, and see if someone else has the missing piece for a solid fit. In other words, I’d like to offer a couple of my idea snippets as writing prompts that you can turn into your own published articles.

The theme today is psychology. I’ll present a couple of behaviors I have observed among my peers. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to explain why people engage in these behaviors, building stories and perspectives of your own.


I live in a busy Downtown area, on an upper floor of a high-rise apartment building. So, most nights I am high up enough that I am shielded from street noise. Not so New Year’s Eve.

From 12:30 to about 4:30, I hear a constant stream of



“Wooooo! Wooooo! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

as people stumble home from the bars, from house parties, from the neighborhood’s grand hotel which always throws a lavish New Year’s Eve bash.

In my city, we have these vehicles called party pedal bikes.

They are bikes that seat up to 16, plus a tour guide/driver who steers the bike. Each of the 16 seats has a set of pedals, so each of the 16 passengers participates in powering the bike from place to place. Also, it’s legal to drink alcohol on the bike as long as you are pedaling. As they cruise past passersby, the pedalers go,


Now and then the tour guide will stop the bike, so the riders can all go in a bar and get shots. As they enter the bar, they go,

“Wooooooooo! WOOOOOOOOO!”

After they muscle their way past all the customers already there waiting for drinks, order their shots, and stumble back to the bike, they go,

“Wooooooooo! WOOOOOOOOO!”

As if the party pedal bikes aren’t bad enough, three hours up the highway from me in Nashville, they have hot tubs on wheels. Yes, you can rent a hot tub and ride through the honky-tonk district in your bathing suit. Of course, as you do, you are expected to go,



Things that make you go Woooooooooo: Writing Prompts

  • Psychologists/pop psychologists/armchair psychologists: If you were to translate “Woooooooooo!” into human language, what would it be? What are people trying to tell you about themselves when they go, “Woooooooooo!”
  • Entrepreneurs: As the party pedal bikes and mobile hot tubs illustrate, clearly there is a lot of money to be made giving people permission to go “Woooooooooo!”, either literally or figuratively. What other business ideas come to mind?

The gatekeeper

In the days before COVID, I was sitting at a bar about a mile from my place. At the table behind me was a clique of mostly middle-agers who were planning an outdoor event. They needed volunteers, probably 7 or 8 of them. “We’ll put a form they can fill out on the website, where they can submit an application to volunteer,” one organizer suggested.

Camille, who’d married into the group a couple of years earlier, piped up, “We should have a nominating committee who reviews the applications!”

The other organizers, thinking that was overkill for such a small event, replied, “Well, why don’t we just print out the volunteer applications out, then bring them to the next organizers’ meeting?”

“Or,” Camille quickly interjected, “The nominating committee could print out the applications, and then present them at the organizers’ meeting along with the committee recommendations!”

Who do you think Camille had in mind to chair the nominating committee?

About a decade ago, I interviewed for a trainer position at a nonprofit. It was one of those team interviews, where not only the hiring manager but the three trainers I’d be working alongside would question me.

We did it in the manager’s office. He sat at his desk, and two of the trainers sat on a couch in his office, facing me. Their body language was relaxed and welcoming.

The third trainer, though, scooted up right next to the manager’s desk and leaned her arms on his desk. Her body language read, “You’re not getting to him without going through me.” That language turned out to be accurate — every time he asked me a question, she interrupted my response, asking for clarification I’d have given anyway if she’d just let me continue.

The next day, the trainer with bad body language called me. “You have a teaching demo scheduled for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Walker Building, Room 245.”

The first thing that occurred to me was, who calls a job candidate and tells them they have an interview/demo/audition at a set time the next day? Where was “Does that time work for you?” Where was “Would you prefer morning or afternoon?” Most people who are interviewing already have jobs. They can’t just get off work on a whim.

The next thing that occurred to me was, I had a teaching demo the next day? I have only one day to prepare? Why wasn’t this brought up in the first interview?

It seems like the trainer with bad body language was setting me up to fail. In fact, that happened. On such short notice, my demo was less than great, and the hiring manager called a week later and told me he’d decided to go with someone else. Looking back, though, not having that trainer as a day-to-day co-worker is probably the best thing that could have happened to me.

Many years ago I started hanging out with a friend who was from one of the old-money families from my city. She’d been to a private liberal arts college with a storied academic reputation, and a great basketball program as well.

“You went to a liberal arts college yourself,” she told me. Indeed, I’d moved to my city originally to attend a college whose motto was “Our ivy is in a league by itself.”

“That’s why you just naturally fit in with my friends and me,” she continued. “You have the pedigree. It’s not like you went to the public university across town that’ll let anyone in.”

Except, she overlooked a couple of things. I did go to the public university across town. That’s where I got my Master’s degree. Not only that, but I taught at the university for five years after I graduated.

Over the next two years, I watched as she and her friends rated various people not good enough for their circle. Eventually, I got sick of them and walked away. Of course, that led them to tell everyone that I wasn’t good enough, that they kicked me out of the group.

Since Survivor was the big hit TV show of the time, I went out and bought a “Voted Off the Island” T-shirt to commemorate the separation.

Do you have people in your life that act as the gatekeeper for your social group or work group? If so, here are a few directions you could take that as a writer:

  • Why do gatekeepers act the way they do?
  • You’re in a social group or work group, and a gatekeeper is keeping some fabulous additions to the group out. How do you handle it?
  • You want to join a group that has a gatekeeper. How do you disarm that person? How do you get them on your side? Or, alternately, how do you do an end-run around the gatekeeper?
  • You read this article and realize you have gatekeeper tendencies. How do you overcome them, for the good of your group? Or do you even want to?

Did these prompts inspire a story idea?

Drop your links in the comments! I’d love to read!

Also, if these posts inspire idea-snippet writing prompts of your own, I’d love to read those too!

Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Hey, you want some more writing prompts?

I write about writing, ideas, creativity, intuition, spirituality, life lessons. Ex-college teacher Twitter: @paulryburn

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