Writing can be such an intimidating thing to do. It requires time, creativity, inspiration and most importantly, it requires practice. The following are some writing exercises that I would like to share with anyone interested in writing. These exercises have come from professors, friends, books and writing courses, I have attended in the past. Some are brief while others require more attention and reflection but I have listed them here for your taking.
As a note of encouragement, there is one thing I have been advised every time I attempt to write. Every first draft, (for most of us), is going to be awful, embarrassing, and a times pathetic. I have had to come to terms with this in order to move on and start writing. No one produces a perfect work on his or her first attempt. Even Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is $#%@.” Everyone has produced awful first drafts but it’s expected. Once you reread your first draft then you can discover what you really meant to write. The editing and rewriting is key.
A reminder to inspire. Ask yourself why you’re interested in writing. Why did you start writing in the first place? For example, I love to write because of its freedom. I admire those who can write and I want to continue to exercise and build on such an important skill. Think about your favorite books, quotes, and authors and write them out so that you can refer to them for encouragement. Rediscover your motivation in order to move forward and start writing.
Free write for five minutes. Have a timer near you to indicate when your five minutes is up. Take a notebook or journal out and pen your comfortable with, and without stopping, simply write. Do not pause, do not think too deeply just let your pen glide and write down all the random thoughts and ideas that are itching to be put on paper. If you’re stuck on a word and just can’t move on, continue to write that word until another comes to mind. Once you’ve finished, allow your mind and hand to rest. Once you have done so review and look over what you’ve come up with. What insights or inspirations have been revealed?
Re-write to your liking. Think of a book or film that you enjoyed but the ending was a big let down. How would you have ended the story? Stay consistent with the original story but alter the ending in a way you think would have been better.
Character perspective. Take a fictional story, a short story works best, and reflect on the characters and their role in the story. Now re-write the story from the perspective of one of your favorite characters besides the narrator of course. What is the perspective of your character of choice? How would that character have told the story differently?
Time period. Write a story set in a different time period and use as many themes and elements from that era and begin a story. The sixties and eighties can be fun, or something more original like Paris in the 1940’s or ancient Rome. If you need a reference, watch a movie about the time period your interest and that should stir up a few ideas.
Observe those around you. Sit on a public bench in the park or find a café where you can observe people going about their daily business. Pick out someone of interest and write about who you imagine that person to be. Where are they from? What are they like? Where are they going next?
An incident. Write about an incident that could be used against you if you ever ran for political office. Maybe use a pen name with this one just in case you ever do.
Start with a prompt. You can find prompts at the beginning of most written works. The first few words in a new chapter of a book or at the start of an article. There are thousands of prompts out there to start writing but the following are some of my favorite. Take one that grabs your attention and use it as a prompt for a story. Poetry and proverbs are great for this as well.
The last time I saw …
Up is like down when …
I once dreamt about …
I thought I saw …
Silence is a great healer.
Experience is the best teacher.
Memory lane. Write a real memory from your early life, if possible from before you started school. Emphasize physical description and sensation. Then, write an early memory that belongs someone else, perhaps one of your friends. Emphasize physical description and sensation in this other person’s memory too.
A past favorite read. Think back to a favorite book you read in the past. It could have been a book from high school or college. Think of where you were in your life when you read this certain book. Where you were physically and mentally? Write about what your impression was of the book you read and why you thought that way. Do you think differently today?
Dear little me. Write a letter to your ten-year-old self. What advice would you give to comfort your young self about the future ahead?
Spark words. Take any of the following words, write it out, and reflect on its meaning. What thoughts come to your mind? Stat writing and keep referring back to the spark word. Indulgence. Hitchhiker. Waiting. Flirting. Imitation. Adoption. Wish. Conformity. Prophecy.
Change it up. Try writing outside of the genre that you’re used to. If you are constantly writing about sadness, make a switch to happiness. If you are a woman, write as a man, or vice-versa. If you write short stories try a poem. You might discover a new untouched outlet.
I hope these exercises will inspire and encourage those that wish to take part in that difficult, yet commendable skill of writing. Good luck writers!
“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.” E. B. White