I believe there’s a writer inside of all of us.
Even if you don’t think you write well, you do have something to say.
You have a story to tell, knowledge to impart, and experiences to share.
You’ve lived a full life that’s packed with observations and adventures, and you shouldn’t exit this Earth without chronicling them in some way.
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, your life is the laboratory for creating a great book or story.
If you can talk, you can write — even if you need to brush up on grammar and spelling. You’ll naturally become a better writer the more you write.
You’ll learn how to organize ideas, make smooth transitions, and expand your vocabulary.
Reading also improves your writing, so if you have the tiniest desire to write well, read a wide variety of books in different genres.
You can accelerate your writing competence with some simple writing exercises.
Your inner creative muscle needs exertion to stay fit and strong — but writing exercises don’t need to be drudgery.
They can be fun and exciting as you see how much creative juice you have just waiting to be squeezed.
These creative exercises should be practiced without self-judgment, inner filters, or concern about what a reader might think.
The purpose is to allow your creative mind complete freedom to cut loose.
You don’t have to show these writing exercises to anyone if you don’t want to.
It’s a good weekly practice engage in writers exercises to what catches your imagination and awakens your inner author.
- Here are 11 creative writing exercises to get you started:
- 1. Answer 3 questions.
- 2. Write a letter to your younger self.
- 3. Use writing prompts.
- 4. Write about your expertise.
- 5. Write a stream of consciousness page.
- 6. Write a story told to you.
- 7. Pretend to be someone else.
- 8. Write about something or someone who changed your life.
- 9. Describe your surroundings.
- 10. Pick a number.
- 11. Describe a dream of yours — or the life of your dreams.
What Are Creative Writing Exercises?
“Perfect” writers don’t exist. Even Ernest Hemingway and Alice Walker honed the craft right up to their waning days. Growth, improvement, and experimentation are the clarion calls of professional and aspiring scribes. And those who succeed put in the work.
That’s where creative writing exercises come in, as they’re designed to help you play with words in a non-judgmental environment.
Common “craft-sharpening” writing games and tools include:
- Prompt prose
- Timed freewriting
- Stream-of-consciousness exercises
- Vocabulary teasers / mad libs
- Restricted writing (i.e., every sentence must start with a verb, certain words cannot be mentioned, et cetera)
Serious writers — and people serious about becoming better writers — are perpetually composing pieces that will never see the light of day. But just as a tennis player hits thousands of serves during practice sessions, writers scribe thousands of short language exercises. To continue the sports analogy: Writing exercises are the equivalent of an athlete stretching before a game or match.
Here are 11 creative writing exercises to get you started:
1. Answer 3 questions.
In this exercise, you’ll use three questions to stimulate creative thought. You can write these questions yourself, but I’ll give you some examples to show you what to do.
You want to answer the questions as quickly as you can, with whatever ideas pop into your mind.
Write as much or as little as you wish, but just allow the words to flow without pondering too much what you want to say.
- Who just snuck out the back window?
- What were they carrying?
- Where were they going?
- Who is Ethan?
- Why is he crying?
- What is he going to do about it?
- Whose house is Julia leaving?
- Why was she there?
- Where is she going now?
2. Write a letter to your younger self.
In this exercise, you are writing to yourself at a younger age. It can be your childhood self or yourself just a few years back.
You can offer advice, compassion, explanation, forgiveness, or praise.
Or you can simply recount an experience you had and how it impacted you as your adult self now.
Try to see this younger self as a real and separate person when you write the letter. This exercise helps you think about your reader as a real person with emotions — a person who can be moved and inspired by your writing.
Again, try not to overthink this exercise. Spend a few minutes deciding the core message of the letter, and then just start writing without filters.
3. Use writing prompts.
A writing prompt is an idea that jumpstarts the writing process.
The prompt can be a short sentence, a paragraph, or even a picture, but the purpose is the same — to ignite your creativity so you’ll begin writing.
Writing prompts can help you when you feel stuck while writing your book.
If you take ten minutes to work on a writing prompt, you can go back to your book writing primed to get down to business. It stimulates ideas for a writer and releases the creative process.
Here are a few prompts you can use:
4. Write about your expertise.
Think about something you know how to do well. It can be anything from washing the dishes to selling stocks.
Write a few paragraphs (or more if you wish) explaining some aspect of how to do what you do.
Assume your reader is completely ignorant about the subject.
This writing shouldn’t sound like a dry instruction manual. Try to write in a conversational style, as though you’re verbally explaining the process.
Break down the steps in a way that makes the reader understand exactly what to do, without using business jargon or buzzwords.
5. Write a stream of consciousness page.
This is an easy and fun exercise. You want to write it in longhand rather than typing on your computer, as handwriting slows down the process and allows more time for your creative brain to do its work.
Grab a pen and blank pad and simply start writing. Write down whatever comes into your brain, no matter how nonsensical or disjointed.
In her book, The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron calls this free writing, “Morning Pages.” She asks the reader to write three pages of stream of consciousness writing every morning. Here’s what she says about Morning Pages:
There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages — they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
6. Write a story told to you.
In this exercise, you want to recount a story told to you by another person.
It can be a story one of your parents or grandparents shared about something that happened many years ago, or it can be a more recent event a friend or family member recounted.
Or you can tell a story you learned in school or through reading about a well-known person or event.
The story can be funny, sad, or educational — but it should be interesting, entertaining, or engaging in some way.
Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, readers love stories. They enjoy relating to the lives and experiences of other people.
When you share stories in your writing, you humanize your writing and take your readers on a small journey.
7. Pretend to be someone else.
In this exercise, you’ll practice writing from another person’s perspective. You can choose a person you know well, or you can write from the point of view of an imagined character.
Put yourself in this person’s shoes, see things through their eyes, and react the way they would react.
Choose one situation, encounter, or setting, and write what you see, hear, think, and feel about the scenario. Get inside of this person’s brain, and try to be as descriptive as possible.
You can write a paragraph or several pages if you’re inspired.
8. Write about something or someone who changed your life.
In this exercise, rather than telling the story of someone else or pretending to be another person, you want to share your story from your perspective.
Write about a person or event that has profoundly impacted you and changed your life.
Rather than simply recounting the situation, talk about how it made you feel, what your reactions were, and how you were changed on the inside as well as the outside.
Pour your heart into this writing. Remember, you don’t have to show it to anyone, so be completely vulnerable and real in this exercise.
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9. Describe your surroundings.
Simply write a paragraph or two about your surroundings.
You can write in first person (“I am sitting at my desk, which is littered with papers and old coffee cups.”), or write in third person, simply describing what you see (“The room is bleak and empty except for one old wooden chair.”).
Challenge yourself to use descriptive language to set the scene.
Rather than saying, “The light is shining through the window,” you might say, “The morning sun is streaming through the window, spotlighting a million dancing dust particles and creating mottled shadows on my desk.”
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you want to write intriguing descriptions that invite the reader into the setting so they can “see” what you see.
10. Pick a number.
Even numbers can serve to inspire writing. This exercise combines numbers with something else you probably have at your disposal.
Pick a random number between 1 and 30. We’ll call it number n. Then look to your bookshelf (real or virtual) and choose the nth book.
(Note: If you have more than 30 books on your shelf, you can choose a bigger number).
Then you’d open that book to the nth page and go to the nth sentence on that page.
Write that sentence down and make it the first sentence of a new freewriting exercise. Just write whatever comes to mind for the next sentence and the one after that, and so on.
Write at least as many sentences as the number you chose.
11. Describe a dream of yours — or the life of your dreams.
Think of a dream you remember and describe it in as much detail as you can recall.
From there, you can take that dream and turn it into a story or play with possible interpretations — serious or just for fun.
Or you can write about the life you dream of living. Describe a perfect day in that life, from the time you wake up to the time you lie back down.
Describe the home in which you live or the places you want to go. Imagine you’re living there in the locale of your choice for as long as you wish.
Don’t bother trying to make it sound realistic.
Just let the words flow, and enjoy the ride. Part of the fun of learning how to practice writing fiction is letting your imagination take over — without any heckling from your inner editor.
How These Exercises Can Make You a Better Writer
At first explanation, writing exercises may sound a tad tedious. But people who do them improve by leaps and bounds.
For starters, it all comes down to the human brain’s wiring. In short, every thought and idea we have is conducted by electrical impulses that torpedo around our nervous systems. When we practice something, the associated “circuits” grow myelin, a biological cushion that protects nerves. The added shielding optimizes the relevant electrical paths, rendering them more efficient.
In other words: The more you do something, the better you’ll get. It doesn’t matter if you have an IQ of 80 or 180. Practice yields results. With writing, the more you do it, the better work you’ll produce.
Specifically, creative prose lessons also:
- Keep your creativity muscles limber
- Help exercise your vocabulary
- Present opportunities to think about ideas and situations from different perspectives
- Help writers workshop characters, plots, and ideas
No matter how experienced you are as a writer, you can always improve and tap deeper into the wellspring of your own creativity.
You can always learn new ways to express yourself and delight your reader.
View these writing exercises as a means to opening doors of insight and imagination and enjoy the process of becoming a better writer.