Dear Sherry: Creative Fitness

Dear Sherry,

I hear people talk about writing exercises all the time. They say it’s a good way to warm up the brain and help focus on the writing tasks, especially for those of us who tend to get distracted by the internet. What do you think? Worth it or not? I’m afraid it might be a source of distraction on its own. And if it is worth the time, do you have any exercises you like?

Signed,
Creatively Fit?

Picture by: Ryan McGuire

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Dear Creatively Fit,

This is an interesting question, one I’ve asked myself many times over the years. In some writing circles, it seems that it’s sacrilegious not to do writing exercises or use prompts regularly.

My Ballad of Mabel Goldenaxe novels grew out of a writing exercise, so you’d think I’d be a fan of them, but I’m not. They always feel like they are taking my precious writing time away from the projects I want to write.

If I’m consulting a book or some other resource for assistance on a particular aspect of writing, such as character or conflict, I prefer to take what I’ve read and apply it to my own writing, rather than some prompt that is given, trying to match a particular style that isn’t mine. Aside from the fact that I need the style, setting, and characters to be mine, when I’ve done writing exercises out of a book, I wonder how I’ve done. Have I actually learned something? I don’t have anyone critiquing it, so how do I know?

I’ve taken courses and workshops, and those writing exercises were fantastic, because I had an instructor to help me with my answers. If you ever have a chance to take a course or workshop that you know will provide you with the instruction you need to advance your writing, take it.

Having said that, there are writers who learn a lot from writing prompts and exercises. They use them as a way to jumpstart their writing sessions, spending 5-10 minutes or so on an exercise or prompt before they dig into their own writing. I approve of anything that gets someone writing.

Yet what works for one person may not for someone else. You will never know if writing exercises help or not, until you try them. I don’t have any real recommendations, except to say that the internet is full of websites with writing prompts, and the bookstores are full of writing books with exercises in them. Pick an area of the craft you’re interested in developing, and find exercises related to that. If you need something to help kickstart your creativity or focus at the beginning of a writing session, find those kinds of exercises.

If they work, great. If they don’t, if you find yourself distracted or spending too much time on them and not enough on your own writing, then stop.

I am interested to hear what you choose to do.

Creatively yours, Sherry


Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at coachsherry@sherrypeters.com.

 

 

3 Comments

  • Ron Edison August 4, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I’ve always disliked writing exercises and writing on assigned topics/themes, and while I can’t say they’ve ever helped me with whatever WIP I’ve working on, I have to admit they’ve sparked dozens of short essays, blog posts, and story ideas. Writing is like a muscle–use it or lose it. If you let it sit too long you can hear the creaks and groans and feel the pain on the page when you stretch it.

    Reply
    • Shara White August 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Writing is like a muscle. SO TRUE. You definitely feel the pain on the page when you stretch it if you’ve been idle too long.

      Reply
  • Shara White August 4, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    For my part, I resist writing exercises. I probably shouldn’t, but when I get them, I’m either too absorbed in the project I’m working on that I can’t think “outside the box” to focus on an exercise (or use those characters FOR the exercise, or I spend too much time trying to think of something to use for the exercise itself, which defeats the purpose.

    Suffice to say, I overthink things. 😉

    Reply

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