I usually approach writing exercises in the same way I approach actual exercise: with a sense of dread.
There’s something about being forced to be creative that sends me into a cold sweat.
But I’m doing a Masters in Creative Writing, so obviously, I have very little choice in the matter.
When the tutor tells you to write, you’ve got to write.
The purpose of the writing exercise isn’t to sort the wheat from the chaff. It’s not a shit-writer witch hunt, or a test for who he should kick off the course.
We weren’t meant to produce something amazing – or even something good.
It was just to get the cogs greased.
And as much as I hated it, it did kind of work. Because all of a sudden I was being forced to work with stimuli I never would’ve given myself.
Warm Up Exercise
Here’s how the exercise went. We were told to just start writing, and then the tutor put words up on the board:
- Tom Cruise
Except he put them up in 2-3 minute intervals. So one second you’d be writing a sentence like “She didn’t feel cold anymore, her blue skin was nothing compared to the nausea sloshing around her stomach” to “She wondered whether Mother still had that ridiculous Tom Cruise picture in the living room.”
What I churned out was pretty mediocre, but it did manage to incorporate all of the stimuli.
And it definitely got my cogs greased – which meant by the time I came to the next writing exercise, I was limber and ready to go.
How To Do It Yourself
So then I started to try and work out how to recreate this at home. And here it is:
- Open your writing medium of choice (whether that’s a notebook, Google Doc or writing application)
- In an adjacent tab, open this random word generator
- Open your stopwatch and set a timer for 2 minutes
- Every time the timer goes off, select a new random word
- Stop after 10 minutes
- Don’t judge yourself for what you’ve written
Point 6 is possibly the most important. Your warm-up is a safe space. Throw in those clichés. Use them and get rid of them so that you’re not tempted to put them into your writing proper.
Your warm-up is for you and no-one else. It’s your creative mind’s equivalent of a cup of tea… so no need to over-analyse the dregs at the bottom of the cup.