Writing Exercise #24

Clearing The Mind  

In order to get into the zone for writing, it is useful to clear our minds of ‘head-chatter’. This is mind activity made up of the remnants of whatever day to day activities we’ve been involved in prior to moving into our writing time.

Thoughts continually come and go, and vie for top position in our minds. Attached to these thoughts are emotions, which distract us from our task unless we still them. Willing them away is often not enough to dislodge them, so we need to clear them out – at least for the duration of our writing session.

There are various mind-clearing techniques, but for now the following simple exercise will give you a starting point to work with until my next post.

Exercise ~

    • Sit quietly and consider your day so far. What have you been doing? Has it been a pleasant morning/day? Have you had issues to deal with? Have you been feeling overloaded? Have you been relaxing?
    • Move backwards to yesterday and ask yourself similar questions and any others that come to mind. Now, the day before yesterday, the last week… and so on, until you start to pass from what is close to the surface of your mind to what you have to dredge up. (At this point you’re going into memories and not thoughts or images currently bouncing around your mind.)
    • Write a list of as many of the thoughts, feelings, images, conversations and issues that rush from you in light of your most recent experiences.
    • When you think the list is exhaustive, close your eyes and allow more thoughts or feelings to surface. Add these to your list.
    • Repeat this last step until your mind is clear of current/recent events. These have now been set aside for another time or have lost their immediate importance.
    • At this point you’re ready to move into your writing zone. Connect with your computer or notebook and delve into your writing session.

This exercise is similar to one I use when I can’t sleep at night because all the tasks I have for the following day invade my mind and push to be remembered. In this case, I write a list of everything I can think of that needs to be done. Then I prioritise them and put the list where I’ll see it in the morning.

This process takes the thoughts/worry about the tasks out of my brain and onto the paper. It also underlines the fact that I can’t do anything more towards them until morning – thus freeing me to sleep.

 

This Writing Exercise relates to Blog ~ The Writing Zone and Writing Tip #23.

 

Writing Exercise #23

Reinforce Your Writing Goals

Setting goals is not enough to make our dreams come true. Setting realistic goals is not even enough to make them come to fruition. There are additional steps to take if we want to achieve success.

Setting SMART and realistic goals, and writing a commitment to yourself to achieve them are covered in my earlier Blogs ~ Prepare To Set Writing Goals That Can Succeed, Construct Writing Goals That Can Succeed and Turn The Opportunity To Succeed Into Success.

What else can you do? Find ways to reinforce your commitment. One such way is to make a collage. The energy you give to this task, and therefore your writing goals, will multiply the possibility of creating the desired outcome.

Exercise ~

Clarify and list your writing goals for 2019.

  • Write about a page that summarises the outcomes you want to achieve. This may be prose or poetry – whatever comes at the time. Just let your creative juices flow…
  • Identify key words, phrases, pictures/photographs, objects, or anything else that will symbolise the essence of each of your goals.
  • Gather these items – take your time with this part of the exercise and make sure you have the most meaningful representation for each goal. For example, a goal might be ‘freedom to write’ – which could have many different meanings, depending on the circumstances. While one person may choose a deserted bush scene to indicate ‘freedom’, another may select a photograph of themselves flying a glider… because they remember the sensation that they were souring on the back of a huge bird with no sound other than the hiss of the wind… and someone else, may simply find a feather for their project.
  • Check that your items are specific and personal. Replace them if necessary.
  • Arrange your items on a sheet of cardboard – or two, or three, or four. I once made a huge collage to represent life goals, using four sheets of coloured cardboard taped together, and it continues to bring rewards twenty years later!
  • Take a break, then come back to your collage with fresh eyes. Do this for as short or as long as feels comfortable – but don’t take so long that you give up!
  • Secure your treasures to the cardboard.
  • Hang your masterpiece where your eyes will naturally rest on it several times each day – to reinforce the power of manifestation.
  • Trust the universe to bring you the opportunities to meet your goals.
  • Take action… and enjoy a successful writing year!

This Writing Exercise relates to my Blog ~ Reinforcing Your Writing Goals.

Writing Exercise #22

Interview Questions 

Interviews can be formal or informal, and the level of intensity of questions asked ideally reflect the circumstances of the interview.

This is a practical exercise that you can utilise over and again in your writing research.

Exercise ~

Write down a topic you need to research for a writing project – now or in the future.

Make a list of possible people to interview.

Choose one person from your list and learn as much as you can about them in relation to your chosen topic.

Brainstorm a list of possible questions to ask this person about your topic.

Cull this list to focus on the most appropriate questions, given the interviewee’s background.

Check each question to identify whether it is an Open Question or a Closed Question.

Re-write any Closed Questions, which would be more productive as Open Questions.

Arrange the questions in order, ready for your interview.

Familiarise yourself with the process you plan to follow, to give the interview every chance of running smoothly.

Enjoy the interview, be flexible, and be open to surprises…

 

This Exercise relates to ~ Blogs Pondering Questions and Asking Questions, Exercise # 21 Questions and Writing, and Tip # 21.

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.