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16 Creative Writing Exercises Guaranteed to Jumpstart Inspiration

The Muse, inspiration, creative energy—it's called several things but rarely is it called "easy," and any writer who has chased it without success knows exactly what I mean.

When the dreaded writer's block happens, writing exercises are a great way to induce creativity and can provide the jumpstart needed to chase the Muse down at will. Here are a few creative writing exercises for you to try that will hopefully do just that. Happy writing!

  1. Developing your descriptive writing skills is necessary for writing in almost every genre, and a good way to do it is to imagine scenes from different perspectives. For example, a bank robbery is taking place and you are on the floor. Describe what you see from that vantage point. Then go back and describe that exact same scene from the robber's point of view.
  2. Much of creative energy is about willing an idea into being, whether it's an idea for a story or turning a music hook into a song. Think of a creative goal you want to achieve—be it a book, a poem, a collection of photographs or a song—and give it a name. Now write a press release about it. Be sure to include details in your press release about your creative process and how long it took you to finish the project. And for those of you who haven't written press releases, CoSchedule blog has a great page with writing tips and example templates to use.
  3. The word count of a project changes how you write it and the writing techniques you use. It's good to practice writing at different word count requirements so you can begin to see which words you use that are extraneous, and how certain words stand out as encapsulating the project as a whole. Here's a great way to practice it: Describe a vivid memory from your childhood using 150 words. Then rewrite the same memory with 20 words. Now rewrite it again with three words and finally, one.
  4. A lot of the challenge to writing is just getting started, which is why using writing prompts and sentence starters is a great way to get past that hurdle. This post has 301 writing prompts and story ideas that are guaranteed to kick your writing into high gear.
  5. Seeing things from alternate points of view is something we all have difficulty with—it's human nature to be focused in on your own experience rather than another's. To practice imagining a scene from alternate points of view, pick a setting and three characters who will be in that setting. Determine their names, their occupations, their appearance and what motivates them most. Now describe the setting from each character's perspective. When you read back through your drafts, be sure to note the subtle and not-so-subtle ways you shifted perspectives in the process. Which do you think were more convincing?
  6. Pacing and suspense are two facets of writing that can make or break a story. The authors who get these right end up on New York Times bestseller lists because readers love a book that they can't put down. To practice your own skills at pacing and suspense, write a scene from first-person point of view where you wake up in a room you don't recognize and try to find a way out. In the meantime, you pass by a mirror and something catches you by surprise; what is it? Now end the story there.
  7. The power of observation can turn a mediocre writer into a great one. To practice your own observation skills, study a stranger for several minutes and then write their biography. Be sure to include key details that happened from birth to the present moment.
  8. Sensory details create depth to any story or character and should be used often in good writing. To practice exploring sensory details, determine five separate locations that you know well. If you can actually be in these five locations while doing this creative writing exercise, that's even better. For each location, write out the five senses and then lists underneath each one that describe the setting. For example, a bar might have the following:
    • see (glasses, door, flashing sign)
    • hear (laughter, glasses hitting against each other, Chris Stapleton singing)
    • taste (cold beer, salty peanuts, greasy fries)
    • touch (crowd pressed together, the feel of glass against my lips)
    • smell (smoke from the kitchen, spilled alcohol, old beer)
  9. Stream of consciousness writing can be a powerful way to find the right words when the right ones are elusive. Along with that, it's an effective way to tap into the subconscious and explore words or phrasing that might be hidden there and just needing a nudge to the surface. One way to practice this type of writing is to write an abstract poem without punctuation or capitalization. Don't worry about rhyme or reason or anything that restricts the flow of thoughts as you write whatever comes to mind on the page. The important thing to keep in mind when completing a creative exercise like this is to not judge yourself harshly or think of it as anything anyone other than you will read. This kind of "judgment-free zone" in writing tends to make great words happen.
  10. Metaphors are one of the most powerful literary devices, especially in genres like poetry. Write a list of 15 normal events in your day (grocery shopping, dog walking, taking a shower) then create a metaphor for each that is as melodramatic or outlandish as possible. For example, "Walking the dog was like a drag race between a go-cart and a Lamborghini."
  11. Building convincing characters often involves taking a look at the whole person—their physical description, psychological outlook, motivation and even their addictions. This is especially difficult when it is a character very much unlike you. Complete a character sketch for yourself, including your physical description along with a description of your education level, socioeconomic status, addictions, motivations, hopes, fears and personality type. Now do the same thing for a character that would be the exact opposite of you in a story. Be sure to check out our post on creating character sketches for a free template.
  12. Here's another exercise to practice building believable characters: Write down five important life questions that are meaningful to you. For example, you might write, "Is there a God?" or "What is our purpose in life?" Now answer those questions to the best of your ability, including the reason you believe what you believe. Finally, choose your favorite character from literature (it can be a "good guy" or "bad guy" or somewhere in between) and answer those same questions again from the point of view of that character.
  13. Write a paragraph that describes three of your favorite colors as if you were describing them to someone who has been colorblind their entire life. Then, below that, write a paragraph describing your favorite song to someone who is deaf by using sensory details that do not involve hearing.
  14. Write a conversation between two strangers conducting simple business that takes far longer than it should take. For example, it could be a bill collector and a debtor, or a bus driver and a passenger. Try to stretch the conversation out as far as you can without venturing into the surreal.
  15. Go to a location where you hear a lot of conversations happening around you at once. Listen carefully and pick out pieces of dialogue from three or four conversations and write those down. Finally, combine all the dialogue together in one conversation between two people in a way that makes logical sense.
  16. Find a short story that you have never read before and read the first half of it. Then, write the second half as you see it happening before finally reading the end of the original story to see how your re-write differed.
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