Writing Exercise #21

Questions and Writing

Questions are used throughout the writing process… from decision-making about what we’ll write, through the research and planning stages, the writing, and on to the marketing and promotional stages.

Exercise ~

Make a list of all the ways you use questions in your writing life. Begin by brainstorming, then add to your list as new examples come to mind.

Reshape your list by rearranging items into positions that feel right to you.

Take some time to ponder the list, and the significance of questions to your work.

Write a piece that highlights the usefulness of questions in relation to your writing.

Ask yourself how many questions you asked during this exercise. You may be surprised!

 

This Writing Exercise relates to my Blog ~ Pondering Questions

Writing Exercise #20

First Day At School

Our first day at school is one of the turning points in our lives. This is when we step from full-time parental protection into the world of shared protection from other adults.

These people play a role in shaping the foundations of who we become, and the students who share our first-day experience have the potential to be life-long friends, again influencing our future.

The school our parents choose for us, usually reflects the family background – financial status, belief systems, and so on. The chosen school also makes an impact on where our first step on the long road to independence will take us.

Exercise ~

Brainstorm at random, the things you remember about your first day at school.

Ask yourself questions to help you find more memories to add to your list. Questions like: What school did I attend? Where was it? What did I wear? What do I remember about getting ready? How did I feel? Was I upset or happy to be there? What happened in the first hour? What did I do at lunch-time and play-time? What was my first impression of the playground? How would I describe the room and where I sat? What sounds, odours, colours and textures do I remember? What was the teacher like? What do I remember about the other children? How did I get to and from school?

Write a piece of three hundred words or more, that gives the reader an insight into your first day at school, your experience, and the important things that have stayed with you from that day.

If you don’t remember your first day at school, substitute the first day of preschool, high school, university, first job… and change the questions to appropriate ones for the circumstances you are exploring.

Writing Exercise #19

A New Approach To Childhood Stories

This is a fun exercise that challenges you to re-think stories and ideas that have been dear to you since childhood. With the benefit of life experiences and shifting perspectives, you may be surprised at the tales you create!

Follow the steps below and see where they take you…

>  Make a list of your favourite fairy tales and stories from childhood.

>  Choose one of these narratives and re-write it with a different ending.

>  If you have difficulty changing a beloved tale, try the exercise with a childhood story that left you unsatisfied. This is your chance to turn it into a favourite!

>  Make any necessary adjustments to your new storyline and do a first edit.

Enjoy the journey!

Writing Exercise #18

Drawing On Past Connections

As we traverse the landscape of life, we live out (and outlive) many roles – both personally and professionally. We are children, siblings, sons and daughters, parents, grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents. We are students, teachers, friends, partners, workers, bosses, and so on…

Over the years we pass through many phases – different careers, house moves, living interstate or abroad, a range of much-loved activities – and experience unique highs and lows.

Put simply, even when a person is plodding through what appears to be the most mundane existence, there are abundant writing opportunities. That is not to say that everything we write that is stimulated by events in our lives must be autobiographical. Of course, they could be… but think laterally.

Let’s take as an example a single aspect of one of my career evolutions. In the eighties and nineties, I was in private practice… counselling, groupwork and natural therapies. Part of my work was in the prison system and I could write about my experiences, or I could choose from many other options – a novel, from the point-of-view of a prisoner (or their partner, a child or parent); a movie, with the central theme of a break-out; non-fiction books/articles… the history of prisons (generally, in this country), the effectiveness of the system, the demographics of crime, an examination of prisoners’ rights; the value of therapeutic work in prisons, transition programs, or the experiences of prisoners’ families while they are inside. And this barely scratches the surface of possibilities.

Exercise ~

>  Consider the various stages of your life and brainstorm them onto paper.

>  Choose one stage and ask yourself… What friendships, relationships and other connections would inform my writing if I revisited this period?

> Write a focussing paragraph beginning with ‘When I lived at…’, ‘When I worked at…’, ‘When I used to fly aeroplanes…’, or similar.

> Take a step back in time by looking at old photographs, reading letters you received/wrote during that stage of your life, reconnecting with people you knew back then – via phone, email, Facebook or some other means.

It is likely your creative juices will be rampant by the end of this journey into the past. List any writing possibilities that are pushing for attention, select one and let your fingers dance on the computer keyboard!

 

This Writing Exercise is related to Writing Tip #18, Writing Exercise #16 ~ Journey Into A Photograph, Writing Exercise #17 ~ Take Five Words, Blog ~ Reconnecting and Blog ~ Hidden Stories Lurk In Photograph Albums.

Writing Exercise #17

Take Five Words

Choose a photograph from your albums or your computer. Any photo will do, because this exercise can be repeated with any snapshot at any time.

Take a close look at the photo, really scrutinise it, ask yourself questions about it, make sure you notice aspects of it that you’ve never realised were there.

Think about the people, the place, the atmosphere, and any stories behind the scene. Absorb the essence of what has been captured, going deeper than the obvious.

Close your eyes and absorb whatever strikes you from this experience.

Come back to the present and write down the first five words that come to you in relation to the photograph. These will be the five most pertinent words in the moment and you may have other words surface at another time, even with the same photograph.

Write a piece that takes you and the reader on a journey through that photograph, utilising the five words you’ve jotted down or their meaning, and any images or emotions that are stimulated by the snapshot.

 

This Writing Exercise is related to Writing Tip #16, Writing Tip #17, Writing Exercise #16~ Journey Into A Photograph, Blog ~ Hidden Stories Lurk In Photograph Albums.

Writing Exercise #16

Journey Into A Photograph

Part A

Select a photograph from your album or your computer gallery… any photo at all. Take a moment to contemplate where it was taken, when and by whom. Are you in the photograph? What is your relationship to it and to whatever or whoever have been captured in the shot?

Use your new experience of this photograph as a jumping off point to write something inspired by it. Let your writing take whatever form it falls into…  poetry, prose, memoir, story, essay…

You won’t necessarily write about the person or people in the photograph… or even the place or the event. Your piece may be about how you came to have the photograph, how you came to be in it (or not), who took the photo, how you felt at the time (if you were there), an essay about the mountain in the background, or anything else that springs to mind. Try not to control the content as you get the story down, and you may be surprised!

Keep writing until you feel satisfied the piece is complete.

Read what you’ve written and do a first edit.

 

Part B

Take a closer look at the image and dig deeper. What else in or about this photograph is word-worthy? How many stories can it tell? What were the circumstances surrounding it?

You might consider the scene from different perspectives. For example, you could imagine it from the Point-Of-View of various people (subjects in the photo, the photographer, passers-by, other people in similar situations…), or in the context of history (yours, your relationship with associated people, the place, the event, fashion, world events, and so on).

Think laterally, and above all else let your in-the-moment experience of the photograph guide you.

If inspiration for a second story strikes you, begin writing straight away and continue until you’re satisfied the piece is complete. Read over it and do a first edit.

If several ideas push forward, brainstorm them onto paper and allow one to present itself for immediate writing. Proceed with this (as above) and put the other ideas aside for later.

 

This exercise relates to Point-Of-View Writing Exercise #11 – Part A and Writing Exercise #11 – Part B.

 

Watch for my coming Blog, which will also focus on the relationship between photographs and writing.

Writing Exercise #15

Exploring Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate mothers and motherhood. We all have mothers, have had mothers… or substitute mothers, or are mothers ourselves. Whether we come from a loving family, were raised in an orphanage or have been moved around between people during our formative years, we all have mother experiences of some ilk. No two experiences are the same, not even in the same household.

This is the time to harness emotions and memories of mothers and mothering…

> Close your eyes and let your memory run rampant across images from childhood, and being mothered – regardless of who was doing the mothering or how it was done.

> Notice the changes in your senses and emotions as you watch images come and go.

>Open your eyes and jot down whatever words come into your mind.

>Now write a point-form list of what you would like to express to your mother or about mothers, mothering, motherhood or Mother’s Day.

>Using this list, decide what you would like to write and craft your unique creation on this theme. This may be one piece of writing, encompassing several aspects of motherhood etc., or several different written gems. It may be one idea expressed using a range of genre – poetry, short stories, essays, memoir… or you may want to stick to one genre for various ideas and expressions.

>If you are a mother, grandmother or great-grandmother, you may like to repeat the above steps from one or all of these points-of-view.

>Any ideas not pursued this time, can be filed in your Ideas Folder for future inspiration.

This exercise also relates to Writing Tips #14 and #15, and my Blog ~ Writer’s Block – Part B.

Writing Exercise #14

One Situation = Many Possibilities

By situation I mean setting, location, circumstance, event, season, and so on. This can be whatever you like… that is, whatever you want to use as the basis of an idea which you can develop into a story, article, essay or poem. You may even use it as the framework for a novel, or to stimulate memories that could become part of a memoir.

For the example to be presented here, we’ll explore the summer season and some of the options this presents for writing.

Write one word in the middle of a page. In this example, the word is SUMMER.

> Draw a circle around the word, and then draw lines outwards from it… like spokes in a wheel pushing out from the central hub.

> Ask yourself, ‘What does the word ‘summer’ conjure in my mind?’ and write one answer at the end of each spoke. You are likely to have words like… HEAT, CLOTHING, HATS, DANGER, INSECTS, FIRST AID, SUNGLASSES, HOLIDAYS, SURFING, DEHYDRATION, GARDENING, WATER SHORTAGE, FIRES… and the list goes on…

> Add spokes as more words rush into your thoughts.

> Take the word that most holds your attention and put it in the centre of another page, then repeat the above steps.

> If the word you chose was SURFING, for instance, your new list may include… SURF BOARDS, BEACHES, SHARKS, WET SUITS, WEATHER, TIDES, SURFING LESSONS, EVENTS, COMPETITIONS, COASTAL SWELL… and so on…

> Ask yourself how you might use any of these topics as a basis for your writing. Chances are, something is jumping out at you and begging to be written. It might be a book presenting a summary of each of the best surf beaches in your state… or an article on learning to surf… the joys of surfing… or the dangers of surfing. You may write from your personal experience as a surfer, or develop a novel in which the main character is a pro surfer. You may even write a potent poem about the freedom of communing with the elements… or a piece from the perspective of a shark watching surfers while it circles below them.

> Sharpen the idea you are most attracted to and use it to develop your next writing project.

> Sign and Date the other ideas stimulated by this exercise and add them to your Ideas Folder for future inspiration.

This exercise stimulates endless ideas and possibilities for writing topics and projects. In the above process, I presented eight examples of what might be written as a result of exploring the word ‘surfing’. This was a quick brainstorm and by no means an exhaustive list. These examples would be a small percentage of the options which would present themselves, if I took each of the words stimulated in this whole process and expanded them as well.

Remember too, this exercise can be repeated over and over, using a different initial word.

This exercise also relates to Writing Exercise #13 ~ Create an Ideas List, Writing Tip #14 and my Blog ~ Writer’s Block – Part B

Writing Exercise #13

Create An Ideas List

This exercise is best done one step at a time, without reading ahead. It is designed to access the subconscious, so for optimum results be spontaneous and don’t stop to think or question the process. The idea is to do the exercise quickly and without hesitation.

  • Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it into two columns.
  • Starting at the top of the left column, write the first word that comes into your mind.
  • Write the next word you think of underneath your first word.
  • Continue in this way, without thinking, without pause, as quickly as possible until you reach the bottom of the page.
  • Go back to the first word you wrote, and in the right side column write a would-be title provoked by that word.
  • Again, continue in this manner until you reach the bottom of the page, working as quickly as you can and without censoring what you write.
  • Put down your pen, close your eyes, and sit quietly for a few moments.
  • Read over your Words List (left column) and jot down on a separate piece of paper any words that may represent a theme on which you may like to write.
  • Read your Titles List and make note of any of the titles that draw your attention.
  • Ask yourself the following questions:
    • Are these titles I would like to write?
    • Is there something underneath any of these titles I would like to explore?
    • Do any of these titles remind me of something, someone, an event..?
    • Do I see a novel, short story, essay, poem, or memoir bursting from any of these titles?
  • Everything you’ve written on your separate page forms the basis of your Ideas List. Re-organise these ideas into categories that suit your way of working and perhaps highlight those ideas that most spark your energy.
  • Sign and date your list. (Sign and date everything, always!)
  • If you are ready for a new writing challenge, you can jump right in and start working on one of these ideas.
  • File the remainder (or all, if you’re not starting straight away) to use as future prompts.
  • Continue to add new ideas as they arise… from wherever they may come!

This exercise relates to Writing Tip #14 and my Blog ~ Writer’s Block – Part B

Writing Exercise #12

How Do I Experience Writer’s Block?

This exercise relates directly to my Blogs ~ Writer’s Block – Part A (posted today) and Writer’s Block – Part B . To enhance the benefits of this exercise, read Writer’s Block – Part A before proceeding.

Writer’s Block appears to plague all writers at some stage of their writing life. It can strike anytime and without warning, and while it is an insidious phenomenon it is not insurmountable.

The best way to minimise its impact on your work is to be prepared for it with an appropriate strategy to halt it where possible and eradicate it when it can’t be avoided. You will find possible strategies in my Writer’s Block Blog Series, mentioned above.

In order to utilise this information to best advantage, it is a good idea to first explore how Writer’s Block touches you and your work. This exercise will take you on that journey.

Ask yourself the following questions and write as much detail as you can in answer to each one ~

  • Are there times that I want to write, but don’t?
  • If so, why does that happen?
  • What is it that stops me from picking up a pen or bashing away on the computer keyboard?
  • Do I have a writing-friendly space for your writing? (See Blog ~ Writing-Friendly Spaces)
  • Is/are the reason/reasons to do with the mechanics of what I am writing – the storyline, the point-of-view, my writing style, the characters, or similar?
  • Do I have a time problem? Too many other commitments taking my attention?
  • Is my writing pause caused by my response to another person’s attitude to my writing?
  • Does my own attitude get in the way? Or my fears?

These questions are designed to get you thinking about Writer’s Block, whether or not it lurks between you and your computer, and how and why it manifests. Add more questions yourself if they come to you, and keep exploring until you feel you’ve fully clarified your relationship with Writer’s Block.

This is not about finding excuses for when you’re not producing work, but rather to put the mystery of Writer’s Block into perspective and identify what really happens so it can be dealt with productively.

Visit Writer’s Block – Part B to continue this exploration.