I believe there's a writer inside of all of us.
Even if you don't think you write well, you do have something to say.
You have a story to tell, knowledge to impart, and experiences to share.
You've lived a full life that's packed with observations and adventures, and you shouldn't exit this Earth without chronicling them in some way. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, your life is the laboratory for creating a great book or story.
If you can talk, you can write — even if you need to brush up on grammar and spelling. You'll naturally become a better writer the more you write. You'll learn how to organize ideas, make smooth transitions, and expand your vocabulary. Reading also improves your writing, so if you have the tiniest desire to write well, read a wide variety of books in different genres.
You can accelerate your writing competence with some simple writing exercises. Your inner creative muscle needs exertion to stay fit and strong — but writing exercises don't need to be drudgery. They can be fun and exciting as you see how much creative juice you have just waiting to be squeezed.
These exercises should be practiced without self-judgment, inner filters, or concern about what a reader might think. The purpose is to allow your creative mind complete freedom to cut loose. You don't have to show this writing to anyone if you don't want to.
Try a different exercise every week to see what catches your imagination and awakens your inner author.
Here are 9 creative writing exercises to get you started:
1. Answer 3 questions.
In this exercise, you'll use three questions to stimulate creative thought. You can write these questions yourself, but I'll give you some examples to show you what to do.
You want to answer the questions as quickly as you can, with whatever ideas pop into your mind. Write as much or as little as you wish, but just allow the words to flow without pondering too much what you want to say.
- Who just snuck out the back window?
- What were they carrying?
- Where were they going?
- Who is Ethan?
- Why is he crying?
- What is he going to do about it?
- Whose house is Julia leaving?
- Why was she there?
- Where is she going now?
2. Write a letter to your younger self.
In this exercise, you are writing to yourself at a younger age. It can be your childhood self or yourself just a few years back. You can offer advice, compassion, explanation, forgiveness, or praise. Or you can simply recount an experience you had and how it impacted you as your adult self now.
Try to see this younger self as a real and separate person when you write the letter. This exercise helps you think about your reader as a real person with emotions — a person who can be moved and inspired by your writing.
Again, try not to overthink this exercise. Spend a few minutes deciding the core message of the letter, and then just start writing without filters.
3. Use writing prompts.
A writing prompt is an idea that jumpstarts the writing process. The prompt can be a short sentence, a paragraph, or even a picture, but the purpose is the same — to ignite your creativity so you'll begin writing.
Writing prompts can help you when you feel stuck while writing your book. If you take ten minutes to work on a writing prompt, you can go back to your book writing primed to get down to business. It stimulates ideas and the creative process.
Here are a few prompts you can use:
- You wake up on a beautiful Sunday morning, feeling happy and ready to take on the day. Then you remember. A wave of anxiety washes over you, and the beautiful day turns foreboding in an instant. Who are you? Where are you? What has happened to make you feel anxious and ruin your day?
- You're taking a walk on the beach early in the morning. The beach is nearly deserted. You notice something half buried in the sand, and when you examine it you see it's an old, rusted metal box. You open the box. What's inside the box? How does it make you feel? What are you going to do about?
- You're sitting on the couch watching TV when you notice a receipt on your coffee table. You know you didn't leave a receipt there, and you live alone. What is the receipt for? How did it get on your coffee table?
4. Write about your expertise.
Think about something you know how to do well. It can be anything from washing the dishes to selling stocks. Write a few paragraphs (or more if you wish) explaining some aspect of how to do what you do. Assume your reader is completely ignorant about the subject.
This writing shouldn't sound like a dry instruction manual. Try to write in a conversational style, as though you're verbally explaining the process. Break down the steps in a way that makes the reader understand exactly what to do, without using business jargon or buzzwords.
5. Write a stream of consciousness page.
This is an easy and fun exercise. You want to write it in longhand rather than typing on your computer, as handwriting slows down the process and allows more time for your creative brain to do its work.
Grab a pen and blank pad and simply start writing. Write down whatever comes into your brain, no matter how nonsensical or disjointed. In her book, The Artist's Way, author Julia Cameron calls this free writing, “Morning Pages.” She asks the reader to write three pages of stream of consciousness writing every morning. Here's what she says about Morning Pages:
There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages — they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
6. Write a story told to you.
In this exercise, you want to recount a story told to you by another person. It can be a story one of your parents or grandparents shared about something that happened many years ago, or it can be a more recent event a friend or family member recounted.
Or you can tell a story you learned in school or through reading about a well-known person or event. The story can be funny, sad, or educational — but it should be interesting, entertaining, or engaging in some way.
Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, readers love stories . They enjoy relating to the lives and experiences of other people. When you share stories in your writing, you humanize your writing and take your readers on a small journey.
7. Pretend to be someone else.
In this exercise, you'll practice writing from another person's perspective. You can choose a person you know well, or you can write from the point of view of an imagined character. Put yourself in this person's shoes, see things through their eyes, and react the way they would react.
Choose one situation, encounter, or setting, and write what you see, hear, think, and feel about the scenario. Get inside of this person's brain, and try to be as descriptive as possible. You can write a paragraph or several pages if you're inspired.
8. Write about something or someone who changed your life.
In this exercise, rather than telling the story of someone else or pretending to be another person, you want to share your story from your perspective. Write about a person or event that has profoundly impacted you and changed your life.
Rather than simply recounting the situation, talk about how it made you feel, what your reactions were, and how you were changed on the inside as well as the outside. Pour your heart into this writing. Remember, you don't have to show it to anyone, so be completely vulnerable and real in this exercise.
9. Describe your surroundings.
Simply write a paragraph or two about your surroundings. You can write in first person (“I am sitting at my desk, which is littered with papers and old coffee cups.”), or write in third person, simply describing what you see (“The room is bleak and empty except for one old wooden chair.”).
Challenge yourself to use descriptive language to set the scene. Rather than saying, “The light is shining through the window,” you might say, “The morning sun is streaming through the window, spotlighting a million dancing dust particles and creating mottled shadows on my desk.”
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you want to write intriguing descriptions that invite the reader into the setting so they can “see” what you see.
No matter how experienced you are as a writer, you can always improve and tap deeper into the wellspring of your own creativity. You can always learn new ways to express yourself and delight your reader.
View these exercises as means to opening doors of insight and imagination and enjoy the process of becoming a better writer.
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