Fire it up! A writing exercise

Last week, Christie talked about using timed writing exercises to restart your creative fires. Here’s a similar exercise that you can use to jolt yourself out of a rut. It’s based on Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose method. You may have tried something similar in a writing class–I know I have.

Find an object to study. Maybe it’s a painting. Maybe it’s a jar of hand cream. Anything will do, as long as it’s close at hand.

Make sure you have no distractions. Turn off the phone and feed the cats. Let yourself relax.

Begin to write about the object. Don’t fuss with conventions. Kerouac recommended using the double dash as your primary divider between thoughts. Allow your mind to wander, and note whatever comes to mind.

Write until you are interrupted, run out of time, or become too physically uncomfortable to keep writing. The longer you go, the more you will scrape up from the bottom of your brain.

Don’t look at what you wrote for at least a day. Allow yourself to be surprised by what you wrote. You might not create anything of literary value, but by encouraging yourself to play an extended association game, you give yourself more stamina and strengthen your abilities to see layers of meaning inside your texts. Plus, who knows what you’ll create? I started writing about a jar of hand cream and discovered the roots of a very difficult poem about my relationship with my parents.

 

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  • I’m almost done with a story that came out of one of my timed exercises. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to do this! Thanks for the post, Wendy!

  • galen dara

    wow…. I really need to do something like this (tailoring it to art/drawing). Been feeling pretty stuck in a rut at the moment, taking the time to relax and explore the pathways in my head for a bit sounds like JUST the thing. Thank you Wendy.