Why Do Writing Exercises?
If you are always primed and ready to pick up your pen (or put fingers to keyboard), and you write on a regular basis, and know what you want to write, and can get it onto paper with ease, then you don't need writing exercises. Congratulations! You are in flow! It's a beautiful place to be!
But, let's say one of the following scenarios (or your own unique blend of something similar) describes your situation:
You have too many ideas floating around in your head and don't know which one to choose.
You just finished a project and can't seem to initiate another one.
You have always wanted to write, but don't know how to get started.
You get intimidated as soon as you look at a blank page.
You started writing with great enthusiasm, but the energy and excitement have now waned.
You can do other types of writing, but worry you don't have what it takes to do creative writing.
You are worried that the great novel won't come out of your pen and that you will write junk.
You are in the middle of writing something and are stuck and can't seem to move forward.
You can still hear a critique about your writing from a teacher or peer and this has zapped your confidence.
You would like to write, but don't seem to have the time or make the time.
You keep reading about writing (turning it into a spectator sport), rather than actually doing it.
You know what you want to write, but don't know how to take the first step.
It's hard to believe, but when you can't/won't write, the best thing you can do for yourself is to grab a pen and paper and write. In particular, you should do writing exercises.
? ? WHY ? ?
Because exercises (also known as prompts) remove the expectations and judgments you have about your own writing. The goal of an exercise is get you to write for the sake of writing and discover or rediscover the joy of writing. Exercises are all about filling the pre-allotted time or the pre-allotted space on the page. Do that, and you have met your goal. Nothing else matters. Not content, not plot, not characters, not spelling. And, to exceed your goal all you have to do is write one extra sentence.
Do enough exercises (The number is different for everyone; for me, it happens to be 2 exercises a day for 3 days), and you will find yourself excited about your 'real' writing. When this happens (and don't force it), it's totally okay to abandon the world of exercises and write what you want to write. Just remember that if you ever find yourself stalled, immediately put your regular writing aside and do some exercises. The exercises will relieve you of the pressure to produce and will once again, get your right brain primed to spew onto the paper without letting your left brain (the nasty editor) get in the way and stop you.
Many people do writing exercises every day because they are not only fun, but also a great way to warm-up before settling in with the day's writing. Others use them to flesh out characters or to experiment with a new genre. As time goes by, you will figure out what works best for you. In the mean time, remember that you can always come back to this website (think of it as a safety net as you take leaps with your writing) for free writing exercises that will help you keep your pen moving.
If you would like to try some writing exercises right now, click here for the Online Story Spinner which will generate millions of creative writing prompts for you. All you need to do is set a timer for ten minutes and you'll be off and writing.
Good luck... and don't forget to have fun!
A Bit About Momentum - And Why It's a Writer's Best Friend
Why You Should Strive for Fiction or Nonfiction, But Never FRICTION
This is a Newton’s Cradle. Sometimes it’s called Newton’s Balls, a name I prefer, but for the sake of professionalism, I’ll stick with Cradle. It’s typically used to demonstrate physics principles, but I am going to employ it to explain how you can keep writer’s block at bay.
Do you remember the word inertia from science class? If not (I didn’t, either): Inertia is t he tendency of an object at rest to stay at rest, and an object in motion to stay in motion, unless acted on by an outside force. The Newton’s Cradle in the picture is currently an object at rest. As a writer, if you are not putting pen to paper, you are also at rest.
When you put pen in hand, or pull back one of the end balls of the Cradle, they are no longer at rest. Letting go of this first ball is akin to putting your first word on paper. After you release the ball, it swings until it hits the second ball, the second ball then taps the third, the third taps the fourth, and then the fourth hits the last ball, which swings out, away from the Newton’s Cradle.
The energy that flows through the balls is known as momentum. On the fifth ball’s return swing, momentum travels through the balls again, resulting in the first ball swinging out. This back-and-forth flow of energy continues on and on. In writing terms, as long as you keep the pen moving, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, you will maintain momentum.
According to the above definition of inertia, once the pen starts writing, it will continue to write … unless YOU stop it. The stopping is another word from science class: friction. Friction is the evil of all motion, a force that resists the relative motion.
As a writer, your goal is FICTION or NONFICTION, but definitely not FRICTION. Friction is your inner critic or judge, perfection paralysis, comparisons to others, fear of the blank page, overwhelm, self-doubt, not knowing the next step, and fear of rejection. In its worst-case scenario, friction is writer’s block.
If you should encounter writer’s block, the best cure is to pick up the pen and do writing exercises like the ones in the books on this site which or the Story Spinner which have been specifically designed to stop the friction by eliminating judgments and expectations, and to start the flow of energy by giving you fun and unexpected ways to create fiction or nonfiction. Think of the books and Story Spinner as Neubauer’s Cradle—and let the momentum begin.