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.
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.
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?