All posts tagged: writing exercises

Writing Prompts from Everywhere

Writing prompts can come from everywhere – they can even come from your own writing! Diana Wallace Peach, who has several books to her credit and blogs at Myths of the Mirror wrote a brand new story by retelling another story she wrote earlier. The second time around, she told it from the perspective of a different character. Taking her cue from an online site that offers lessons for writers, Diana writes about the challenge to “Retell the 500 word piece from last week using a fresh perspective. If you wrote about the person with the narrator as observer, write about it from the perspective of the observed person. If you wrote in the third person, change to first person. In other words, shift whatever you did 180º . ” Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path suggests that writers do a “360.” Jepson says that doing a “360 is an easy, fun, and fascinating exercise that can give your writing new depth and vision. It begins with a single scene. To do a 360, rewrite the scene from …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Move to Inspire the Muse (9)

When we think of paying attention, we usually think of sitting still, of clearing our eyes and ears of distractions and concentrating on the object or scene before us. But sometimes the best way to be still – to still your mind and focus on your subjects – is to get moving. -Rebecca McClanahan McClanahan points to the practice of Claude Monet, whose studio was a boat floating down a river. Monet painted the objects that floated by, which was a challenge because the objects were moving. She explains: “Monet’s artistic vision, coupled with high emotional energy and a seemingly unquenchable passion for light, led him to create works that seemed to describe the most fleeting and fluid moments in nature.” McCalahan asks writers to consider incorporating some form of movement or activity into their writing life: “Concentrating on your body may free your mind to discover its own path.”  Now I understand why the words seem to flow more effortlessly after I do Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Yoga before journaling. McClanahan suggests:  “Before you write, take a …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Keep Your Vision Alive (8)

“Follow the example of poets A. R. Ammons and Jorie Graham: take up painting or sketching as a way of keeping your vision new.” –Rebecca McClanahan McClanahan doesn’t explain how taking art lessons can improve one’s writing, but I have first-hand knowledge of how painting or sketching helps us write better. When you’re sketching or painting something or someone, you don’t think, you look at the details, and see beyond the details. You train your eyes and mind to be observant, to notice how the light “paints” on the subject. The result is an interpretation that is truly and uniquely yours. McClanahan suggests another exercise:”Or follow the example of writer Frye Gaillard, who claims to have a bad ‘visual memory.’ When he visits a place or interviews a subject, he takes detailed notes on what he sees, later expanding the notes into sensory descriptions.”  My attempts at painting “If description is the flowering, it is also the root and stem of effective writing,” wrote Rebecca McClanahan in her book, Word Painting, A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. I’m …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Engage the All-accepting Eye (7)

“Rather than considering our subject firsthand and describing what we observe, we label it. Because we’ve already established for instance, that slugs are disgusting, we go on to describe them as ‘slimy’ creatures that leave ‘gooey’ trails. Cliché upon cliché.” – Rebecca McClanahan When we write, we have to set aside preconceived ideas and observe our subjects with an all-accepting eye that neither sees good or bad, beauty or ugliness. Our words should describe what we observe. For a writer to write  descriptions that are “rough in texture” yet “smooth as the moon,” McClanahan emphasizes the need to “really look at your subject.” Good description comes after one uses both naked and inner eye, and the all-accepting eye. “Accept every part of the subject, removing those conventional labels – lovely, gross, sweet, inspiring, depressing – that you normally associate with the image,” writes McClanahan. Additionally, she cautions writers on jumping to conclusions. Instead, a writer must refuse to view a subject as he or she had been taught to view it: “Look long enough and …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: An Exercise in Observation (4)

The naked eye provides us with sensory, concrete experiences. The imaginative eye opens up other worlds. –Rebecca McClanahan   Here’s an exercise in observation that is geared towards training the naked eye to see more intently. Choose an ordinary object – a soup bowl, comb, or blanket. Make sure it’s an ordinary object you see or use everyday. I made the mistake of choosing a big quartz crystal and questions about its origin distracted me from observing it. The second object I used was a pair of scissors. That worked better. Place the object in the center of a table, or right in front of you. Set a timer for 10 minutes and  observe the object you chose. Use your eyes and other senses. Smell it, feel its texture, look at the small details. If your mind wanders (and it will), gently bring your focus back to the object. Among other things, you’ll realize how long ten minutes could be when you have nothing else to do but observe a simple object. When the 10 minutes …