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.


Writing Exercise #11 – Part B

Point-Of-View Exercise – Part B

Introduction ~

In each of the four components of this part of the exercise you will use the same personal characteristics as you used in Part A of this exercise (Here) to introduce yourself. However, this time you will be writing from different Points-Of-View.

Part A was written from the 1st Person Point-Of-View (POV) – from your own perspective (using ‘I’ or ‘we’ – speaking about yourself).

Part B (a) and (b) are to be written from the 2nd Person POV (using ‘You’ – to address you directly).

Part B (c) and (d) are to be written from the 3rd Person POV (using ‘He’ ‘She’ ‘They’ – another person speaking about you).


 Instructions ~

Part B (a)Write from the 2nd Person POV – Using the same characteristics you identified in Part A as describing yourself, write a piece of up to 100 words about you from the perspective of a parent or parent figure.

Part B (b)Write from the 2nd Person POV – Using the same characteristics you identified in Part A as describing yourself, write a piece of up to 100 words about you from the perspective of your worst enemy. If you don’t know of any enemies, imagine you have one and what they would say about you using your stated characteristics.

Part B (c)Write from the 3rd Person POV – Using the same characteristics you identified in Part A as describing yourself, write a piece of up to 100 words about you from the perspective of your best friend.

Part B (d)Write from the 3rd Person POV – Using the same characteristics you identified in Part A as describing yourself, write a piece of up to 100 words about you from the perspective of a biographer one hundred years from now.

Try to get into the spirit of this exercise by imagining you are the person from whose perspective each piece is written. Write from their attitudes, thought processes, and how they would express themselves.

By the end of this exercise you will have experienced the same information [your own characteristics from Part A of this exercise (Here)] from three different Points-Of-View. Notice how the same information can bring different results from different characters and different Points-Of-View. For example, it’s not unusual for ‘shy’ to be interpreted as ‘aloof’ ‘stuck up’ or ‘judgemental’, depending on who is making the observation and what frame of mind they are in.

Writing Exercise #11 – Part A

Point-Of-View Exercise – Part A

Close your eyes and think about the characteristics that make you uniquely you. Don’t concentrate only on the physical… go deeper… and deeper… until you reach the essence of who you are – your likes, dislikes, values, attitudes, what is important to you, how you approach things – and so on, and so on…

Jot these down, and keep going until you feel you have reached your inner self.

Having clarified who you are at a very deep level; set aside your notes.

Write a piece that introduces you to the reader. Write from your own perspective (‘I…’) as you would if you were speaking directly to a person or a group of people.

Don’t exaggerate or be too modest. Be clear, precise and honest. Remember, no one but you will see what you write, unless you want them to…

The word limit for this exercise is 100 words. You won’t fit everything about yourself into this number of words, but if you follow the directions above the most-characteristically-you items will be included.

This exercise is Part A of a five component Point-Of-View exercise. It will be used as a foundation for the next exercise I post.

(Exercise #11 – Part B)

Writing Exercise #10

An Overheard Comment

Jot down a snippet of a conversation that grabs your attention while going about your daily activities. You may hear it as you pass a group of people chatting in the street, while waiting in the bank or in the queue at a ticket office, or on a crowded bus or train… or anywhere…

Just a few words can be enough, though longer will work just as well. Whatever the length of what you hear, it will surely be something that intrigues you or takes you to a memory or sets your imagination on fire.

You are not necessarily going to write about what you heard. Instead, your task is to write something that is stimulated by what you have heard or the experience of overhearing it. What you write may not be directly related to the words you caught, but it will be something that comes directly from within you.

Begin writing whatever comes to you and see where it leads. It may take any form… poetry, prose, 1st 2nd or 3rd person, past or present tense…

Whatever it is, keep writing until you feel satisfied you have captured a gem that otherwise may not have begged to be written.

In writing courses, I ask students for a maximum of three hundred words to allow time for processing at the following class session. However, there is no word limit here.

This exercise is related to Writing Tip #3 and Writing Tip #11.

Writing Exercise #9

Reflect On Your Writing Year

An important part of goal-setting is to reflect on what has been before. Recognition of what has been achieved and identifying what hasn’t, gives a foundation for new direction.

Take some time to explore your writing year by thoughtfully answering the following questions:

  • Did you achieve all the writing activities you wanted to during 2016?
  • Or are there writing projects unattempted, partly-finished and put aside, or relegated to the bin?
  • Are the projects you wanted to complete, but didn’t, still relevant?
  • Does your passion still burn for these projects?

If your achievements fell short of your dreams, consider why this may be…

  • Why were some hopes fulfilled and not others?
  • What made these more achievable?
  • Were your hopes too big for your circumstances?
  • Did other commitments overshadow your writing endeavours?
  • Are there strategies that could have been implemented to assist your attempts to meet your goals?

Your journey through these questions will give you insight into your writing life, which will be invaluable when you move on to set achievable goals for your writing in 2017 – per my next blog.

This exercise is related to my blog ~ Preparing To Set Writing Goals That Can Succeed and Writing Tip #10.

Writing Exercise # 8

Why Write?  

Write a one-page outline of your reasons for writing…

Over the years, I’ve asked many beginning writers why they want to write and established writers what drives them to write.

The answers are many and varied, because writing is such a personal journey. However, most responses fit under the following headings:

  • For myself
  • For family and friends
  • For others
  • To be famous
  • Because I have something to say
  • I have specific messages for others
  • For money/career
  • I feel the need/compulsion to write

Identifying with one of these reasons does not necessarily exclude all the others, and you may have several reasons for writing. Likewise, your reasons may change over time.

The notion behind this exercise is that it is important for you to know what is driving you to write at any given time.

(Related to Writing Tip #9 – here)