Whether you’re an accomplished writer or just starting out on your wordly path, there will be times when you either run out of ideas, are looking for something different to write about or simply looking for a diversion from your regular writing routine. Having a rich supply of creative writing exercises at the ready makes it easy to feed all three of these needs.
For more than twelve years, our Writerspark creative writing group has posted almost daily writing exercises. To date, our 3,452 individual exercises have sparked thousands of brand new stories, poems or short scenes that would not have existed otherwise. Although our members would have certainly been able to write compelling work without our daily prompts, having prompts available assured something fresh to write virtually every day.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a creative writing prompt is that prompts help to rekindle our creativity fire when it is smothered by writer’s block. I doubt there’s a writer who ever lived who hasn’t hit that moment when, for some inexplicable reason, ideas simply won’t come. Writer’s block is as likely to strike the moment we sit down to write as it is mid-way into a new novel, and when it does it can kill the creative urge and leave projects unfinished. Having a diversion can take your mind off of your current project and stir your creative juices.
Although we are not aware of this process, our minds are capable of working on a great many processes simultaneously. However, when writer’s block strikes, our thought processes tend to short circuit as we focus all of our energy on trying to force thoughts to come. I imagine this to be like trying to get hundreds of people, each with a separate purpose, to rush through a single door at once. The doorway becomes impossibly clogged and no one gets through. Sitting down to work with a writing exercise for a while allows you to ignore that doorway until you have a reason to attempt it again.
Rarely will a writing exercise relate to the writing project that has us stuck; still, the act of writing about anything at all during these blocked periods not only keeps us writing but allows that part of our minds that is still working on our original project to invisibly process information without being forced. This relaxes those pathways and allows them to work more efficiently. More often than not, after a brief period spent writing on an unrelated subject you’ll find ideas are freed up and you’re back at your project.
Another benefit of exercises during writer’s block is that the exercise itself will often spark new ideas for your current project. I’ve often found fresh settings, characters, plot lines or images for something I’ve been working on while writing through an exercise seed. For me, these moments are like opening the little 10-cent surprise package back when I was a kid.
Exercises are also a great way to launch an entirely new piece of work. Even if you’ve got the most fertile imagination on the planet, writing exercises can generate totally unexpected pieces of work that help to energize your creative spirit. Perhaps your favorite genre is romance that take place in a city setting, but then you encounter an exercise that introduces a country general store. Suddenly you’re out of your city setting and a fresh romance ignites between the country clerk and the widow just passing through.
Finally, whether you’re blocked or have piles of great ideas ready for pages, working a daily writing exercise allows you to have plain old fun with writing with no expectation whatever about a finished product. Although I’m no fan of cliches, the old saying “All work and no play…” is just as true for writers as it is for bankers or auto workers. If all you do is focus on writing for specific purpose your work can become stale. Exercises are a great way to recharge and have fun between projects. Exercises are not only a source of fun, you’ll likely find whole new writing projects that you never imagined.
Whether you are a Writerspark member or get your exercises elsewhere, I urge you to work a fresh exercise as often as possible. Thousands of exercises are also available in our 1,000 Days in Writerspark exercise series at our eStore. Versions of all three volumes are available for just $2.99 each for Kindle, nook or as PDF files.
Exercise your muse today. You’ll be glad you did.