Many people believe that writing is all about talent — and that unless you were “born with it”, you’ll never become a great writer. The truth is more complex. Although some people have are innately drawn to beautiful language, we can all become better writers.
If you believe Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice and hard work to become an expert at almost anything. The more you write creatively, and the more often, the better you will get. By exercising this skill, you will learn from your rookie mistakes, break through the roadblocks, and start to conjure words you can truly be proud of into existence.
How can you get started with creative writing exercises? It’s easier than you may think.
On the practical side, you will want to:
- Set up a schedule. You may not want to write creatively every day, as allowing all you learn to percolate in your brain is ultimately going to be beneficial, but aim for two, three, four, or even five days a week.
- Let go of the idea that you need inspiration to be creative. Just do it. On the same note, discard the idea that your efforts are worthless if the writing you produce isn’t actually any good. You will get better.
- Create a comfortable working area for yourself, where you won’t be interrupted.
Not sure where to get started with your creative writing? You could always try:
- Writing about your day… from the perspective of a completely random stranger you encountered at the bus stop or grocery store. Imagine that person’s life in as much detail as you can. What are they struggling with? What are their hopes and dreams?
- Penning that angry letter to that nasty coworker, old school mate, or your brother.
- Dipping your toes into speculative fiction by imagining what kind of technological, environmental, and social changes will have shaped the world 20 years from now.
- Describing life from the point of view of your cat, dog, or that fly on the wall.
- Sharing what you’d do if you were suddenly transported back in time, to the world your parents grew up in.
- Thinking about what you smell, hear, and feel right now. Try to describe it as poetically as possible.
- Ranting about the world as someone whose religious and political views are the polar opposite of your own.
- Imagining that you have the chance to win a trip to the travel destination of your dreams. All you have to do is explain why deserve to be picked!
Now, make your own list of creative writing prompts — quite the creative exercise in itself! Sure, you can find plenty online, and although the ideas you’ll find can challenge and inspire you, see what your own mind can come up with as well.
If you want to practice your creative writing skills, you have no choice but to actually put some words down. Writing stories itself is, however, far from the only way to hone your skills. To be a creative writer, you will need imaginative and unique ideas, but also technical knowledge. You can make strides in that area by:
- Challenging yourself to read plenty of books from all genres and lots of different time periods.
- Reading back over your old writing and seeing if you’re overusing a particular set of words. Ban yourself from using your go-to nouns and verbs for at least a week.
- Studying different sentence structures and encouraging yourself to branch out.
- Forcing yourself to use new words, and, if you typically stick to particular genres or themes, go beyond them.
- Asking others — if need be, complete strangers on online creative writing groups — for brutally honest feedback on your writing.
Becoming a better creative writer means leaving your comfort zone. Set challenging but achievable tasks for yourself every day, and you will make enormous progress.