Friday Speak Out!: Writing Exercises to Feed a Starving Muse (and Book Giveaway!)

Friday, March 14, 2014

by Jessica Bell

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Well, not entirely. I do believe that we run out of ideas or inspiration on occasion, but I honestly think that’s a result of a starving muse.

What do I mean by “starving muse”?

Sometimes, when you are working on one particular manuscript, your brain becomes lazy or trained to think a certain way. It slips into the routines and personalities of what you believe your characters to be, and creates, what I like to call, an inspiration shield. This means that you could be cutting yourself off from new creative stimulation that could improve your work, and help grow new ideas.

If you think you have a starving muse, here are a three writing exercises that might provide it with some nutrients.

Exercise One

Think about the person you are in love with. If you are not in love with anyone, think of someone you love unconditionally, such as a parent, sibling, child, or pet. Write a scene between you and this person that illustrates the extent of your love through action. You must not use the word love at all, any synonyms of love, or any declaration of your feelings. The reader must see that you love this person from the way you behave. Avoid clichés such as cheek stroking, and looking longingly into one’s eyes. Use at least one simile/metaphor in your scene that relates to smell. Use 1st person, past tense. Write no more than 1000 words.

Exercise Two

Write a one-page memoir from the point of view of an inanimate object. Don’t think about it too long. Just choose the first object that comes to mind. Think about its function. Does it need another object, or a living being, in order to efficiently serve its purpose? If so, what kind of relationship would this object have with this other object/living being, and how would that relationship shape the object’s life? Try to avoid giving the object supernatural abilities. Be as realistic with it as possible, but be sure to give it a “voice.”

Exercise Three

Step one: Grab a newspaper (or your iPad!) and open to a random page. Read the first headline that catches your eye. Write it down. Do not read the article.

Step two: Write a fictional article with the same headline. If you know the real story from the news, choose another one. If you know every single story that has been in the news lately, make up your own headline.

Step three: Use the people mentioned in your article, and the things that happened to them, or the events they are associated with, to write a short story or vignette. Try to “show” as much as possible.

Have random writing exercises ever helped you overcome the elusive writer’s block? If so, how? If not, why do you think that is?

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

Jessica is excited to give away a free copy of her writing skills book, Writing in a Nutshell: Writing Workshops to Improve Your Craft to one lucky winner! Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below and leave a comment for a chance to win. Open internationally. Winner is chosen randomly and announced within the widget on March 21.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* * *

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/ guitarist, is a the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Jessica--I think that ANY exercise that gets us writing helps jump-start a reluctant pen.

Thanks for sharing some of your favorite exercises.

Unknown said...

Hi Jessica - I enjoyed reading your post and love the term "starving muse". Thanks for the great tips to get the creative juices going. I know for myself, doing a little meditation every day seems to help clear the highway for those ideas to come through! Have a great day and thanks for sharing!

Carl Scott said...

Thanks very much for the wonderful tips. I've never tried random writing exercises but the idea sounds totally plausible. I'm almost sure that technique would work for me. Thanks again.

Unknown said...

I absolutely agree that writing something in a different style is a great way to break out of a mental pattern that's causing writer's block. And I love the creativity of the exercises you've presented here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, random writing exercises have always helped me. They help fuel my ideas even if it is one I will tuck away to use later on. For me it can be like a jolt of caffeine to help me become more productive. JD

Unknown said...

I love writing exercises. Sometimes all it takes is looking at things differently, or focusing on another project, to get my creativity back and running at full speed.

D.E. Malone said...

Yes, writing exercises have helped overcome writer's block. I keep them in a file on my computer, and have pulled from them when I'm working on various projects.

Debbie A Byrne said...

Sounds like a great book! I had a list of ideas for writers block. I will have to look up that file.

Unknown said...

Great writing prompts. I find writing prompts are so helpful to get my muse off its butt and working for me. I like your philosophy about writer's block and how it's really a starving muse. Never thought of it that way.

Jessica Bell said...

Thanks for dropping by, all! I hope these exercises help you in a time of need. Good luck with the giveaway if you entered!

Joy Keeney said...

Yes, I find that random writing helps get the creative juices flowing again. Sometimes I use writing prompts and sometimes I just sit down with pen and paper and let the words flow.

Amber Polo said...

Great post. I love #3!

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