One of the hardest parts about writing is getting started. That’s why I incorporate writing exercises–both in-class and take-home–into all my classes. Writing exercises are a way to get the creative side of your brain working without the judgmental side chiming in. They’re a way of generating ideas. They’re a way of getting unstuck. Which is why I’ve decided to start sharing writing prompts on this blog.
Here’s the plan: Every week or so, I’ll post a writing exercise. Usually I’ll write the exercises myself, though sometimes I’ll borrow interesting ones or I’ll riff off of something I’ve come across (always with proper attribution, of course).
Sometimes the exercise will be a single line prompt. Sometimes it will have multiple steps (like the one below). It will always be accompanied by a photo or a piece of artwork to help stimulate the imagistic side of your brain and suppress that logical, judgmental side that can keep you from writing. And it will always be timed. And I mean timed as in set your phone’s timer or your kitchen timer or whatever works for you and once that alarm goes off, STOP WRITING. Then put the exercise aside and go back to it later–a few hours, a few days–and see whether you’ve produced anything that gets you interested in a new story or a new chapter or a new character. Or whether you’ve produced something that gets you excited about revising something–a story, an essay, a novel chapter–that’s had you stumped.
And if you’ve got writing exercises you want to share, or are excited about something that you’ve produced from one of my exercises, please let me know by either posting a reply to any of the exercises or by emailing me. I’m always curious to hear about whether an exercise is helpful.
So here’s the first one:
Study the picture above and imagine a corner store, by which I mean a neighborhood store that stocks a mishmash of stuff, someplace you can drop by for a carton of milk and a magazine and a rinky-dink toy that your kid will break in a heartbeat. It can be an actual corner store, like the one near where you grew up, or the one down the street from where you live now. Picture the person working the counter, the general clientele as well as the regulars who inhabit the place, the things that you might stop by to purchase, or the things that you longed to buy as a kid but didn’t.
Then set your timer for 5 minutes and make a list entitled “Ten Things I Never Stole from the Corner Store.”
All done? Set your timer again, this time for 20 minutes. Now write a scene or a short short story in which you (or your character) steals one or more of the things on your list from the corner store.
Ready, set, write!
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