Wednesday, February 21, 2007


How many times have you said, "I don't know what to write about," or, "I would write if I knew what to write about"? Maybe you just need a noodge to get you started. I'm going to help you with that. I'm not going to teach you how to write. I'm not going to drum into your head writing rules or lessons on grammar or writing techniques. The exercises I'll be presenting will help uncover the great writing ideas you already have. Everyone has unlimited writing possibilities. They're just waiting to be uncovered. You don't have to live an exotic life or be a celebrity to find interesting things to write about. Everyone has an interesting story to share. Listen for stories. Most of all, listen to the stories from within.

Why exercise?
Writing exercises are important to the process of writing--to improve, to challenge, to experiment. A ballet dancer doesn't start pirouetting cold. She spends the first part of her session doing barre exercises, warming her muscles before starting to dance. Think of writing exercises as the barre work of writing. When you warm up with an exercise, your creative muscles will wake up, become warm and pliable, and soon your writing will gain energy and momentum. You'll ask yourself why it took so long to get started.

Warming up is only one of the many reasons to do writing exercises. Practice is necessary to grow as a writer. Judy Reeves says in A Writer's Book of Days, "Writers aren't born knowing the craft; writers are born with an urge to write, a curiosity, an imagination, and perhaps, a love of the language. The way to learn craft is through practice, and your notebook is the place of your apprenticeship. Even writers who are expert in their craft (those who've practiced long and hard) still try out ideas." Benjamin Franklin read authors he admired and created writing exercises to practice what he had learned. The notebooks of Flaubert, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Plath were filled with exercises. In one notebook F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote how he "worked out" his novel, Tender is the Night.

You may not immediately find a place to use your writing exercises. Your writing may sound like dreck. It may be boring. That's a natural part of the writing process. Don't throw it out. Later you may want to return to a passage and develop it further. Maybe not. If nothing else, you can look back through your notebooks and track your progress, your increased discipline, your deepening creativity.

Each week, I'll post a new entry--part memoir, useless trivia--with an accompanying exercise. There is no right or wrong way to do the exercises. They're meant as a jumping off point. If your writing takes you in a different direction from what you originally intended, do not resist. Follow your muse and have fun with it. Thank you for taking me on your journey.
Let's get started...

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