If you wanted to run a marathon, you would most likely prepare with months of training and conditioning. You’d start off small, like power walking every day. You’d increase the duration of your walks daily, and eventually you would go from walking to running. Every day of sweat and sore muscles would bring you one step closer to becoming a marathon runner.
Right now you might be saying something like the following:
“Sure – writing takes time, but I can lock myself in the office for a weekend and finish a whole book. Easy!”
I for one am not doubting anyone’s ability to sprint through a writing project. However, being a writer – a real professional writer – isn’t about how fast you can write a project. Writing is about how well you can stick to the craft of writing project after project.
To keep writing, the professionals say you have to build up your writer muscles.
What are writer muscles?
I’m not talking about the muscles in your hands used for the physical act of writing. I’m talking about your mind; your imagination.
Besides giving your mind something to think about through extensive reading and watching thought-provoking shows, (TV and cinema), practically every writing class and book about writing says the same thing:
Do writing exercises.
Writing exercises are like mini-assignments. They instruct you to write about a particular subject, but you have to write about it in a specific way or by using certain elements. Sometimes these exercises are more like prompts that give you a concept/scenario to write about. Most people only do these writing exercises for 10-30 minutes at time, although some exercises and prompts may provide writers with inspiration for larger projects.
If you’re looking for writing exercises and prompts, here are a few links you should check out:
- Writing Exercises offers an easy-to-use interactive site that works well for writers. On the left side of the screen, you can click on the links for random topics, scenarios, plot generators, etc. Not only is the site good for finding writing exercises, but if you’re stuck or looking for something to write about, this site may give you some great ideas as well.
- From Daily Writing Tips.com, Brittiany Cahoon’s article, “10 Writing Exercises to Tighten Your Writing,” describes some of the more classically used writing exercises.
- Although David Michael is trying to sell journaling software on his site, he supports writers to the fullest and he offers this extensive list of prompts and exercises for all types of writers, including those who write journals, memoirs, poetry, and prose.
If you still need more exercises, they’re EASY to find. Googling “creative writing exercises” pulled up over 10 million sites as of April 2014, and that’s just websites! There are countless books that also have different writing exercises.
Whatever exercise or prompt you use, always remember that doing these exercises is just a technique to get you in the habit of writing on a regular basis. They build your stamina.
Furthermore, as Gary Provost said in 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing:
“Whatever you [write], do it in a noncritical way. Turn off the editor in your head. The exercise is not supposed to be polished prose anymore than a warm-up run is supposed to set a world record” (23, emphasis added).
What about people who write every day? Should they do writing exercises? Can it help?
To be absolutely honest, I have not done writing exercises on a regular basis in some time, but I write every day as a part of my career as a professional writer. In other words, I’ve built up my stamina and I’m maintaining it. Therefore, I really haven’t seen a reason for me to do writing exercises. In fact, though this may sound pompous, at times I have considered doing such exercises as beneath me.
Nevertheless, there is something that writing exercises can do even for people like me. These types of exercises and prompts can challenge us to think differently. They can make us get out of our normal styles and away from our writing comfort zones. So . . .
I am going to attempt a 30-day writing exercises challenge. I will spend no more than 10-20 minutes a day on each exercise. Whatever I write in that allotment of time is all I can do for that day, (i.e., I won’t obsess or get sucked into the exercise beyond my time limit). I accept that what I write may be absolute crap, but the quality won’t matter, since few people will ever see this experiment in whole.
The point of my self challenge is, in part, to see whether I really have the stamina and determination I claim to have. I also want to see if I can write in ways I have yet to try or master (i.e., genres I haven’t written about, perspectives I haven’t considered, etc.).
Whether you are a writer like me or if you want to become a writer someday, please join me in my challenge! Use some of the prompts from one of the sites I’ve listed above, or from a site of your own choosing. Follow up with me in 30 days, (on or around May 10), and tell me how you did. I’ll be sure to tell you how I did, and I may even include a few of my better exercises.