Tuesday, September 4, 2007

World's Best Writing Exercise

Again and again, I've heard journalists-who-would-be-novelists complain that the hardest thing for them is to kick-start their imaginations. They're used to telling the truth, and not making up things. (A few reporters excepted there!) They're accustomed to writing concisely, not meandering on for 400 pages. I had the same problem, and it was a BIG problem when I wanted to write fiction.

So, for them and for other beginners, here's the World's Best Writing Exercise to get around the crusty old editor in your brain and let your imagination flow.

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Sit down with paper and pen and put the tip of your pen on the page.

Turn the timer on.

Look up. What's the first thing you see? Use THAT.

Start writing on that "theme," whether it's "doorknob" or "dog." Do not stop for anything. Don't edit, erase, or mark out. Forget punctuation, grammar, spelling. No judging, criticising, or anything but writing down everything that comes out of your pen. Write, write, write as fast as you can, before the judge on one side of your brain can browbeat the artist who lives on the other side of the duplex.

When the timer goes off, STOP.


Read what you wrote. Now tear it up and throw it away. DO NOT REWRITE IT.

Do the same thing tomorrow, and every day for a month.

I'll be very surprised if that doesn't free up something inside your imagination.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!


Nancy P said...

Hi, to boran2, who dropped in to say hi last night. He has a new stage in his painting done, btw. See his blog link in my blog roll on front page.

Beth, so what spot is going to be your fav spot to have coffee in the morning in your new digs?

Anonymous said...

Good question, Nancy. I don't have a porch. :-( And there are noseeums outside...they found me last night when I was weeding. I think my spot will be on the beach...saw lots of folks wandering with mugs in their hands yesterday.

I have to tell you - all of the comments I've gotten on my blog recently are from this family - thanks for making me feel loved!

Great exercise this morning! Now if I could just get rid of this headache I'd get some work done. Hope everyone has a productive day, even if it's being good at being slackerly. :-)

Nancy P said...

G'morning, Beth. Mmmm, how nice to walk on the beach with a cuppa in the company of others doing the same thing.

I wonder if it will take you a while to unwind from the stress of getting-ready and then traveling and visiting and moving and. . .

I've loved following your travels, but I'm glad for your sake that you're settled.

Kimberly Frost said...

Good morning!

Back from vacation and back to work writing. Just finished part one of a 2-step revision I'm making to a manuscript. I wonder if anyone else feels the need to break things down into parts so that he/she can feel a sense of accomplishment even before actually finishing the revision. I guess it's like having a to-do list in part so one can cross things off it. :)

Nancy P said...

Welcome back, Kimberly. I hope you had a relaxing and fun vacation.

I definitely break things down, even down to individual scenes with 3x5 index cards attached to them! And every time I finish checking a scene for certain things, I feel good.

Sometimes the stage of rewriting that you're in--when YOU HAVE A PUBLISHER AND A CONTRACT!!--is a lot of fun. I hope it proves so for you!

Kimberly Frost said...


Just read yesterday's post. ROFL. You were in very rare humorous form yesterday. Lingerie shops in Amish communities. Hee hee hee. You're very bad. That must be why I like you. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nancy. Traveling is good, but stopping is better.

I think I do have to cut myself some slack for that very reason. I'm still trying to get details ironed out (car/health/renters insurance, forwarding mail, etc.), create a new schedule, learn where the stores are..no wonder I'm having trouble settling down to write.

I'm a list-maker, Kimberly, so I certainly understand the need to cross things off. After my dad retired, he would put things like "get up", "shave", "shower" on his list, so he'd have something to cross off. Congrats on finishing part 1!

olivia said...

Morning all.

Nancy -- this sounds like a great exercise. I find that it's hard to do creative writing as well, coming from a scientific/academic background. I'm not used to writing w/out referencing or justifying each statement.

Nancy P said...

Hi,Olivia. You can make even a balloon of a space shuttle look real. :)

I loved that ex. when I began writing fiction. It truly was liberating for me.

FARfetched said...

I've seen that exercise before, and I think it would be a good one for anyone who needs it.

Fortunately, I (usually) don't need to jump-start my imagination. My technical writing work actually gives me *some* outlet: "OK, here's an error message, what to do you about it? Um... the update didn't load, so maybe you verify that you have the right version before you try re-loading it." (That was an example from this morning.) So I get to make stuff up, even in the context of a "just the facts" writing job.

However, I'm feeling some internal pressure to get back to some fiction stuff. I have a couple pieces of FAR Future that I need to write down (and they tend to flesh themselves out as I go, so I'll have something to post soon). Also, a character in my half-finished novel has started tapping his foot and twitching his head at me, waiting for me to write about his road trip… not surprising; he's a kinetic kind of guy & hates sitting around. So if I "go dark" for a week or two on the blogosphere, I still love y'all & will be back when Olga the B&D Muse lets me. (Besides, next week is vacation time!)

I suppose the best writing exercise is to write something, and that's what this is about. Time to stop writing about writing and actually get some done. :-)

Nancy P said...

far, if you go dark for that reason, we will be happy about it, even though we'll miss you. :) I'll probably have to do the same thing now and then.

Those twitchy charcters! They just won't let us go.

Nancy P said...

You know what? I'm starting to think I need to go dark as soon as tomorrow, because I have so much writing to do, and because of my upcoming trip. I'll miss you guys, but I also know you'll understand.
If I do that, I'll put up a post tomorrow to that effect.

Anonymous said...

We'll understand, and miss you, Nancy. We could all probably benefit from spending less time blogging...but how much fun would that be?! Just be sure to let us know, and not disappear without a trace. Have a great weekend, and a productive week!

Kelly McCullough said...

Have a good writing binge Nancy. I'm about to indulge in one of those myself. I got about 2k in on the contract book, but nothing on the spare today. I need to work harder if I'm going to sustain two books at once.

Nancy P said...

I don't know how you could work harder, Kelly! But happy binging to you, too.

And thanks, Beth. You have a great first week in your new Florida.

Nancy P said...


I wrote the post for tomorrow and then posted it accidentally. I think I'll take the hint from my subconscious and leave it up, and go think about my plot.

Feel free to keep talking, though. I won't actually disappear until tomorrow.

FARfetched said...

Night, y'all! I should probably put up a similar notice.