Exercising your writing muscles?

One, Hemingway. Two, Hemingway…

Everyone has heard the tip you should write everyday. Just like exercising everyday to build strong muscles. But, what type of writing?

I mentioned before that I don’t feel blogging is sufficient practice for fiction writing. But, what about writing exercises? Do they serve a purpose? Are they enough?

They certainly do serve at least one purpose. They get you writing. Just like blogging, actively writing is absolutely beneficial to flexing those lexicon muscles. Doesn’t matter really what kind of writing it is so long as it requires you to write in complete, grammatically correct sentences. That improves your ability to write coherently, and to broaden your verbal scope.

Oh. Oh, I think I pulled a hammy.

But, when it comes to fiction, is there a benefit to these types of exercises, such as writing prompts, or memory exercises?

I don’t remember where I read this (I know, shame on me for not being able to cite a source), but it said that the downside to writing exercises was the idea of a secure goal. You are given a task, such as write about a memory from your childhood, but from the point of view of your parent, for example. Well, you allot yourself 15 minutes, write your bit, then, bam. You’re finished. Maybe you edit it a bit, save it somewhere in the dusty confines of your 2 tb harddrive and move on. Where’s the harm in that?

Well, for one, you haven’t actively created the idea yourself. That may not seem that important, but the creative process that occurs in the minds of artistic people relies heavily on the necessity to both spontaneously, and consciously initiate an idea that is comprised of multiple sources. A song you heard. A snippet of strange conversation. A scent. An image. Your brain stirs those ingredients and comes up with a hodgepodge creation that is unique. You get an idea for a story, and you write it. This is how that person said the process should work, and that doing exercises is the equivalent of being just a hired gun. You don’t work for yourself.

Like a boss!

Writing exercises can be a great tool to get you out of writer’s block. Or, as Nathan, from The Writer’s Codex said, “what it can do for you is shake ideas loose,” when referring to the benefits of blogging. I think that is a great sentiment. Yes, it is better to actually write stories than to spend an hour doing writing exercises, but there are benefits to doing regimented, restrictive tasks in writing. It forces your mind to think on its proverbial little monkey feet. It gets you out of your box and lets you stretch a bit.

What do you think? Do you do writing exercises? Do they help? How?


5 thoughts on “Exercising your writing muscles?

  1. I have not done any imposed writing exercises in a long, long time.

    I see my blog in and of itself as a sort of exercise. It challenges me to relate to readers, which has always been something that I’ve had a hard time with. Writing has always come naturally..but making sense has not.

    Also, one of my jobs involves long hours of writing rather meaninglessly about certain topics…so I get about all of the write-about-this-one-thing-ness that I can handle most of the time. By the end of the day, creativity has been brewing up some vivid stuff in the background and then it ends up as fiction stories or as blog posts.

    Thanks for this! It was kind of an exercise just to think of my exercises..

    • Hey Jennifer. Thanks for reading and taking the time for your input.

      I can see how a job where you write about uninteresting topics can be stifling. I’m amazed you are able to pull fiction out of that monotony! That is truly inspiring. I’m lucky if I can write fiction even after being inspired. Usually, I end up with this great creativity high, then two hours later I’ve watched two B-Horror movies and am depressed that I’m wasting my life.

      • Haha aww that happens to me too. I usually get a kernel of an idea when I’m walking the dog in the morning. Then, I let it simmer on the back-burner while I write about other stuff. Then in the evening if I’m lucky, there’s still enough oomph in it for me to get some of it out, or else I’ll put it on paper. I have one now that is all half-baked, half written and half undiscovered in my brain. If you’re worried about wasting your life, then you already aren’t 🙂

  2. I used to do the “you must write once a day” thing some time ago. Personally, it doesn’t work for me. For one, life can get hectic and there are other obligations for us who are not full time writers. One can start beating themselves up when a day is missed (The horror! I didn’t write today!). What I think is better is to always be moving forward with your writing, somehow. For instance, before I write, I research a lot. I read other works of fiction to study craft. I look for inspiration for story ideas. When they hit, I make milestone goals for completion. I track my progress so I can get a better idea of my own writing process, etc. It all relates back to writing, but may not be the actual writing. My two bits . . .

    • Dan,

      Great thoughts. I am the same. I am NOT a prolific writer like some of my writing friends and fellow bloggers. My creativity is more of a slow burn. I don’t like that fact, but that seems to be the way it is. Many of my ideas will stew in my head for weeks or months before I even write a single word.

      Thanks for sharing!

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