What is every author and copywriter’s greatest fear? Writer’s block. You’re stuck for ideas, what you’ve written just doesn’t sound right and every good story has already been told. So, what do you do when the classic suggestions of taking a drive or going for a walk don’t help and your brain’s still having a moment? And how can you prevent writer’s block from even happening in the first place? The solution is creative writing!
If you’re looking for an explicit definition of what creative writing is, then I’m afraid we have some disappointing news: there’s no universal concept or conclusive description. Knowing that different writing exercises, forms and methods are included under the umbrella term is enough to begin with. These should help you to come up with ideas, while the writing process takes center stage. But before we get lost in gray areas, let’s get down to business. Below you’ll find five different creative writing exercises and explanations of how they work.
Improve an existing text
Show, don’t just tell
What? Replace characterizations and descriptions of feelings with actions and dialogs. Why? Vivid, graphic narration pulls the reader into the story. How? Take an existing text and look for characterizations and descriptions of feelings. Change these sections in the text so that they instead depict what an onlooker would see from the outside. For example: “The soccer player left feeling offended” gets changed to “The soccer player threw his things into his sports bag and left the field without saying a word”.
Get ideas flowing with regular practice
Automatic writing (also known as free writing or free association writing)
What? Regular writing practice that brings out unconscious thoughts. Why? To reveal new ideas, associations and combinations of ideas. How? This exercise requires regular practice, the same environment and good time management. Look for a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, where you can sit with your pen and paper for several days in a row. Set a timer for 10 minutes and then start writing. There’s no beginning, no end and no central theme. Unfinished sentences and fragments, jumping from one thing to the next, associations, images and feelings are all part of the process. Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes can be even be helpful. When your 10 minutes is up, set aside the piece of paper and go about your day as usual. Take a look at what you wrote at a later time to see if any patterns, ideas or combinations stand out.
Take control of what happens in the story
Write a sequel
What? Rewrite an existing story according to how you want it to pan out. Why? Putting your own spin on a story stimulates your imagination. How? Choose a short story, novel or a film that you enjoyed, but the ending left you a little underwhelmed. Rewrite it with your own new ending. For example, if you’ve always wanted Macbeth to end with the three witches reigning over Scotland instead of Malcolm becoming the new king, this would be your chance to write the perfect ending.
Capture the essence of a story
A story in five words
What? Tell a story using five key words. Why? The limited number of words means the essence of the story is highlighted. How? Take your favorite film or any other story and outline it in five key words. Let’s take Titanic, for example: ship, forbidden romance, iceberg, sinking.
Write an unusual story
The tone-genre game
What? Determine a tone and genre at random and use these to write a story. Why? Experimenting with various styles means you don’t have to wait for the perfect occasion or idea to write a good story. This also allows your brain to go to places it hasn’t gone before. How? Write down 10 different tones, each on a small piece of paper (e.g. serious, happy, hopeless, animated, cynical, humorous etc.), and fold them in half. Do the same with 10 different genres (e.g. detective story, sci-fi, family novel, journal, crime, user manual etc.). Take a piece of paper from both groups, set a timer for 30 minutes and write a humorous crime story, a cynical user manual or whatever it is that chance has planned for you.
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