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As many of you know, I send out a monthly e-newsletter for writers, and for me, the best part about it is hearing back — I love learning what’s new with former students, when to look for clients’ new stories or essays in print or online, and whether a particular writing exercise has worked (or not).

And the second best thing about the newsletter is that it gives me a chance to practice what I preach. Writers often feel too time-strapped and/or goal-driven to do writing exercises that are not directly related to their projects at hand — but, I’ve been told, having my newsletter pop into their in-boxes every month (give or take) reminds them that they need to take time for these seemingly random writing prompts. And, I’ll tell them right back: It reminds me, too.

The seemingly random writing exercises (this month’s: Describe what’s on your bedside table. And why.) can help our writing in ways we don’t know until we do them. They can, for instance, allow our minds to retreat from the puzzle of a current project and wander a bit, perhaps leading us back to the puzzle from a different angle and getting us closer to a solution. Writing prompts can help us discover new material for an old piece, or new material for a new piece — or they can help inform whatever it is we’re working on (anyone who wants to tailor this month’s exercise to a current project need only substitute a character’s name for your). Or, you can simply think about it and let it go. One writer told me she didn’t actually do the exercise this month, but she did clean up her bedside table. I love that — it’s progress of a different sort, but who’s to say that having a clean beside table can’t lead to clearer thoughts and better dreams? And, perhaps by extension, more vivid writing.

I recently read a book called Rapt (recommended by my writing buddy, Clare), which posits the theory that “your life is the creation of what you focus on.” So … what portion of your life do you want to spend focused on writing?

Remember that Life and Writing need not be mutually exclusive — at least, not always. Almost everything you do can lead to a story idea, or a line of a poem — and writing takes so many forms beyond a set project. One of my favorite notes this month came from a writer who’s been busy with one of her best projects ever: writing her wedding vows.

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A Nice Way to Think about What I Refer to as "Diddling"

I really like what you have to say about daily writing exercises. Most of the time I dismiss the writing I do on blogs or in response to posts like yours as "diddling" -- that is, wasting time, when what I should be doing is writing the next scene in my novel or rewriting once again that d**n query letter. I forget that writing in response to prompts or just playful description, can be a way to practice. Thank you for the nice reminder.

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The great places writing exercises can take you...

Thanks, Carol!

I too sometimes feel tempted to dismiss such exercises as "not real writing," yet so often it can lead to terrific work! So I've learned to honor the exercises!

And this wonderful essay by Brenda Miller shows the amazing places a writing exercise can take you...

http://brevity.wordpress.com/tag/brenda-miller/

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Thanks for the Tip

Looking forward to reading the Brenda Miller post. Thanks for the tip.