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Suggestions for 10-Minute Writing Exercises

Sometimes you wake up and the creative wellsprings are dribbley and dry. Sometimes your project (if you currently have one) feels as appealing as the sweaty insoles of your old gym shoes. You could put your feet back in there, but yuck. Sometimes your feet want to just run free and naked on a sandy beach, in slow motion, with the man of your dreams their dreams? I'm confused running towards you them? the feet? from afar looking buff and sexy and oh god. I need more coffee or an inspiration infusion and to get OUT of this pesky second-person... Yes, indeed, sometimes I got it, sometimes I don't, and maybe that's true for you, and it's time for a writing exercise. Or a blog entry. But this blog entry is about writing exercises so um.... help? Intervention, please?

Okay, then. (Deep breath.) Here are some 10-minute writing exercises to help you regenerate creativity, or at least to keep you from doing damage today on that magnum opus of yours. Some are courtesy my dear-friend-and-colleague Monica Wesolowska. And some are courtesy my dear-friend-and-colleague Elizabeth Bernstein.

And some are courtesy old Dribbley-and-Dry me.

Suggestions for 10-Minute Writing Exercises

Write three 3-minute stories (use a timer, starting exactly when the timer starts and stopping exactly when the timer stops). Keep your pen moving the entire time. The first two stories will be true tales about you (things that actually happened). The third story will be a "lie."

Write about the time you were most frightened.

Choose any two of the following lines. Use one line as the opening line of a story. Use the other line as the closing line of the story:

  • "Me," she thought, "pick me."
  • We was just kickin' it 'cause that's just what we always do.
  • Eliza rose and roared: leather and fantasy, virgins of Sardinia, blood.
  • The first time Andy tasted her anchovy pasta he was hooked.
  • The room fell silent. Nobody breathed. Then one man in the back began to slowly applaud.
  • And so it happened that, deep in a wood, stood a castle of gold around which the children played, laughing innocent songs of childhood joy.
  • The sound of the airplane reached them from far away.
  • Tassy Melon stuck wadded toilet tissue into her brassiere back then so she'd look to have titties.
  • The clothes froze to the railing, brittle as my heart.
  • Mr. Salt peered through a crack in the blinds into a day of sundown and strawberry.
  • "That’s okay," Dave said, "we can do something else together sometime, then."

Choose a different color each day. Go on a walk looking for that day’s color. Come back and write about everything you saw that was that color.

Try writing right when you wake up, without getting out of bed, without talking to anyone or reading anything. What does your morning “voice” sound like?

What’s the worst job you can think of? What's the best job you can think of? Write a story in which somebody working the worst job interacts with somebody working the best job. Your story does not have to have a beginning or end.

Write a list of seven words you like. Each day, use a different word as many times as you can in your writing.

Choose a corner of any room in your house or apartment. Make a list of everything you see in that corner. Now write a story about a man going shopping with that list.

What is your favorite flavor? Chocolate? Shrimp? Carrot soup? Take a few minutes to sit quietly with your eyes shut and imagine eating the most delicious serving of your favorite flavor you've ever tasted. Now describe the sensations to an Alien.

Trying writing in a different place each day, a place you would never consider good for writing, in an elevator, for example

Go to a Chinese restaurant and eat a wonderful meal. Save the unopened fortune cookie. When you're sitting down to write, open the cookie. Write a story in which the main character uses the fortune in YOUR fortune cookie to change his or her life.