Creative writing starts with writing practice. This is by definition a pastime whereby a person just settles down in front of a blank sheet of paper and starts writing without any specific goal in mind as to the purpose of the resulting literature. Many people enjoy writing practice. There are a couple of rules to it:
- You should keep your pen moving, don’t think or plan what you want to write.
- Do not edit what you write. Don’t cross things out, don’t check for spelling and grammar mistakes in your sentences.
- Keep writing until you fill your paper or book if that’s what you are writing.
At this point, you must be thinking what possible reasons there could be for these rules.
- When you keep the pen moving, you avoid getting what is commonly called the writer’s block. It helps you get something out on your paper even if it starts with “I don’t know what to write”. It’s encouraging.
- Editing while you are writing stifles creativity and causes writers to reject truly creative ideas. If something is wrong with what you wrote, go over it later on, when you are done writing.
With that said, if you are thinking of engaging in writing practice, think about writing in groups. It’s true that people should be able to self-motivate but left on your own, you would be surprised how easy it can be for you to not do something you really want to. If you have say a 1 1/2 hour block once a twice a week scheduled with your friends and you know they are counting on you to show up, you’ll do it. Another interesting benefit of writing in groups is that writers can inspire each other.
So we’ve covered what writing practice is all about and we’ve seen the rules. Now comes an introduction to creative writing exercises that will actually help you fill those pages you need to.
1. Random stimulation
Random stimulation is a proven creative writing exercise that aids creativity. You are probably thinking “Why”, right? Theoretically, the way random stimulation has something to do with how the human brain works. The brain is very adept at making connections and forming patterns. Sometimes two random words forced together can make your brain form connections and patterns and give you enough ideas to write a whole paper. The important thing in this exercise is to not reject the random offerings. Often the most creative ideas come from words that don’t fit at all.
So how do you get started with this exercise?
Start off with two or three random words. It could be as unrelated as “heater” and “barbell”. Now what you do is you use these words as some sort of inspiration to start writing. Originally, plan to use the words you thought of in what you are going to write. Keep at it for at least 10 minutes.
If you are writing in groups, each person in the group can jot down a couple of random words in pieces of paper and shuffle and pass them around in a bowl or a hat. Each person in the group picks one piece of paper and starts writing. You can alternatively make a list of related words and use these words to start writing. If you are completely blank on words, use a dictionary to write down words. For instance, write down the first word on every 100th page.
If words do not work for you, starting writing off phrases. You could try the following phrases:
1. I remember….
2. I always thought….
3. I never understood…
4. I wonder….
5. I hate….
6. I try not to….
If what you are writing about involves developing a character, a fun creative writing exercise would be clustering. Basically, in the middle of a blank sheet of paper, jot down the starting concept of what you need to write and circle it. From that center, draw a bunch of radiating lines and write down concepts relating to your core idea. Circle those too. From those circles, draw further radiating lines and lay down more relating concepts. This cluster will be your guide to what you have to write.
Not that a cluster will not really help you develop an interesting character. It will more take the shape of a stereotype. It’s merely a list of things that you can explore.
3. Answering questions
The third and last creative writing exercise we are going to talk about is answering questions. Once again, say you are going to develop a fictitious character, maybe a computer programmer who absolutely hates his job or a very meticulous and cynical dance instructor. If you need to write about a character or any other topic for that matter, it really helps to consider this exercise. Basically, what you do in this exercise is you answer all questions you can think of irrespective of whether you end up answering the question incompletely or negatively. Let’s take the computer programmer example. Possible questions you could answer include:
- What’s his name? Is it a he or a she?
- What’s his age, height, body shape?
- What about his hair color, skin color, dressing style?
- Where does he work? What is his job description?
- How does he go to work?
- Does he have a plan, a goal in life?
- What kind of qualifications does he have and where from?
- Where does he live? Does he live alone? Does he have a pet?
- Who is his best friend? Does he have any hobby?
- What is his favorite dish?
- How is his financial situation?
- What’s his moral attitude? What kind of person is he, professionally and outside of work?
- What was his childhood like?
With this writing exercise, the key is being as specific as you can be. There are thousands of possible questions you could ask yourself about your character and based on the questions, you can derive many more specific questions.
So there you go; 3 powerful drills that will definitely develop your creativity if you perform them.