Sooner or later, you’ll be staring at a blank page, and you’ll feel like your creative reservoir has run out (Hint: It never does). Your internal resistance will be at its peak. You might have limiting thoughts about your writing skills. “You’re an imposter and were fooling people all this time,” an inner voice might echo.
If you’re currently suffering from the blank page syndrome, then understand that it’s completely normal. Damn that inner voice. Once in a while, your writing muscles might resign. It could happen even when you’ve been writing every single day.
So to flex your writing muscles, this article covers a wealth of creative writing exercises.
Ever wondered how you can practice your writing?
Well, the exercises below will help you refine your creative chops, especially if you’re a fiction author. These exercises will help you get into writing again. So let’s get down to it and work out those writing muscles!
Table of Contents
1. Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are a goldmine when you are stuck and don’t know what to write about. They stretch your comfort zone and give you something to write about. Prompts can range from character-building to scene-setting.
Here are some fun ones that can help you:
a) Roads Taken: Report the story of two characters who decide to go to the same destination by different roads
b) Wrong number: A character falls in love with someone they dialed by mistake
c) Small town: Set the scene of a story in a small town
d) Beach: Set a story scene on a beautiful beach where you have never been
Check out our list of a year’s worth of prompts to dive deep into this exercise.
2. Use Your Visual Sense For Inspiration
Photos can be significant in evoking inspiration. Take it a step further by finding random pictures (or inspiring pictures) and trying to link them together to form a story. It can be like a personalized collage, made by connecting them in a meaningful way.
3. How Do Things Look From A Different Angle?
Sometimes, all you need is a little change of scenery. Try writing an already written story by you or another author from someone else’s perspective. For example – what would Harry Potter look like from Voldemort’s perspective instead of Harry?
If this doesn’t work for you, mix and match some non-fiction and imagine waking up as a person you know in real life. What is life from their perspective? What do they do? What do they feel? What are their fears? What do they avoid?
This can help you strain your creativity muscles in a new direction and build a character or make you aware of certain personality traits a character in your story can have. The new-found empathy and compassion you feel for this person is just a bonus.
“Lean back and ask, “What would it be like to live my character’s life hour by hour, day by day?” In vivid detail sketch how your characters shop, make love, pray — scenes that may or may not find their way into your story, but draw you into your imagined world until it feels like déjà vu.”
4. Baby Names – What Can You Tell?
Another way to build a character is by hunting baby names and creating a character from them. What would a Cleopatra be like? Take an unusual name or a common name with an uncommon backstory. What is their life like? Where did they grow up? What are their pet-peeves? Maybe this name lives inside a video game.
Find cool nicknames here.
5. Do What Franklin Did
In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin spoke of the many ways he would exercise as a writer. The most interesting one was rewriting the notes of a magazine, The Spectator, and writing them in his own words after a few days. Later, he’d compare how he had written vs. how the magazine had written it and how he could improve.
He would even take a story, convert it into verses of poetry, and then change it back to prose after a few days. Franklin believed that poetry could aid him in his vocabulary.
Try one of the Franklin techniques to see how you fare as compared to your favorite authors, and what you can do to write more like them.
6. Let Your Imagination Run Wild
This is my favorite and most-often used technique: freewriting. It is exactly what it sounds like – writing freely without letting another hesitant thought interrupt you. Julia Cameron calls it “morning pages” in her book, The Artist’s Way.
This process helps because letting your consciousness run wild can give some insightful ideas or can restore your sanity to get some work done. To do this, you don’t have to be inspired, you don’t have to have an ‘idea’, you have to just be. It reduces inner chatter and brings out interesting plots.
There were many times I was scared of the blank page and wondered what to write in my “freewriting session” as I called them – so I began with “What to write? I am scared of the blank page” and flowed from there. Here’s a sneak peek into Tim Ferriss’ morning pages:
7. Atwood’s Way Of Getting Unstuck
Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, was interviewed by the National Center for Writing where she shared her top five writing tips. Her fourth one is on what to do when you get stuck on a story:
“If you come to a block, and you don’t know where to take your story next, there’s two good things to do: one of them is go for a walk and the other one is go to sleep. Because during the walk when you are thinking about something else the answer may very well come to you and if you give your unconscious mind..you know ‘I have a problem’… go to sleep. You wake up and you may often find the answer.”
8. Stanton’s Advice On Keeping The Audience Hooked
When you are writing a story, it is just as important to figure out what the readers shouldn’t know as opposed to what they should know. If you’re jumbled up in a story and can’t take it ahead, figure out what the reader shouldn’t know. Andrew Stanton, the author of Finding Nemo, tells of the “Unifying Theory of 2+2” in his TED Talk:
“The audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they are doing that. Make the audience put things together. Don’t give them four, give them two plus two. The elements you provide and the order you place them in is crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the audience.”
9. Restrict Yourself To Certain Words And Characters (And Write A Short Story…)
If you feel that creativity is all about unrestrained and raw madness, then think again. In 2016, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack won the Goldsmiths prize for books that ‘break the mold.’
Do you know the chief differentiator of the beautifully simple Solar Bones?
It’s a single sentence novel.
Yep, you got that right.
Here’s an excerpt from the book that Martin Riker shared in his review for The New York Times.
You can also take another challenge like omitting certain words and letters while writing a short story. In 1939, American author, Ernest Vincent Wright, wrote a 50,000 word-novel, Gadsby, without using the letter “E.”
Now, It’s Up To You To Use These Writing Exercises To Improve Writing!
The above writing exercises have been proven to flex those creative muscles. The cadence of these Creativity Workout Sessions depends on you. It can be every day, every week, or every month, depending on the results you get. You can even pick a different exercise each week and keep experimenting to find what works for you.
It’s all about tapping into your imagination, getting away from judging your work, and letting your ideas flow. Start a routine by spending 15-20 minutes and keep at it until you transform into a story generation machine that spits the shit out on a blank paper.
Gone are the days of staring at the blank page for prolonged periods, aye?
Are there any other creative writing exercises that you have successfully implemented in your writing routine? Let me know in the comments below.