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Writing Exercises and Prompts

Stuck for a writing topic?  Try this terrific idea from Journal to the Self by K. Adams ©1990

The Five-Minute Sprint:
Set a timer for five minutes.
Take a blank piece of paper and your favorite pen.
Write as fast as you can without stopping to think, correct, or edit.
Start with one of the following prompts:

  • Things I could write about…
  • I want to write about…
  • What could I write about?

When time is up you will have some new ideas and direction for your writing practice.  Choose any topic from the 5-minute Sprint and continue writing.

For a real challenge:  Start with the prompt: Things I don’t want to write about…

More Writing Tips:

  • Jot notes about dozens of small moments; “quilt” them together to make a whole essay or chapter.
  • Twenty chapters = one book
  • a page a day = a novel in a year
  • Take down observations in the moment they happen.
  • Write a postcard – or spend 5 minutes to write a post card sized reflection about something you’ve already observed. (Keep some 3×5 index cards handy)
  • Write a letter in which you tell a story to someone else. Write what this piece of information meant to you.
  • Mine your journals for fragments and moments that seem to go together. Gather other details that relate. Give this list a title.
  • Write a 10 minute first draft.
  • Simply talk on paper: ask questions, tell stories, tell secrets.

Overcoming Writers’ Block

The next time you have writer’s block, take out your pen and paper, set the timer for ten minutes and just write. No expectations. This may be the start of something big – or it may not. The fact is that you are practicing your craft – and everyone knows “practice makes perfect.” Write about what’s happening in your life, about something you read in the paper or heard on the news. Write about why you don’t want to write. Write it in dialogue. Write in the third person about yourself or in a child’s voice. Play around. Write something; write anything – that’s what writers do.

Memoir Prompts:

In my memoir classes, people ask me all the time – where do I start. If you want to record your family history, start with what you remember.
Write for 5 minutes with the prompt:  I remember….
Write stories based on the list of things you remember.
When you’ve exhausted that list, write a new list of things you remember. As you write stories, your memory will open and more events, people, and places will show up.
If you’re really stuck for subjects, try this prompt:  I don’t remember….
It works! You may be surprised by what you don’t remember and reach into a deeper level of memory that brings emotion and truth to your writing.

What to include in a memoir?
Every memoir holds the truth about one person’s vision of the world. Experience is passed through our personal filters and expressed by our own point of view. History happens. Written history is shaped by creative selection.  What is it that you want the world to know? What life learning is forefront in your mind that you want to remember? A memoir is more than just a history recitation. It includes feeling and perceptions that make the story unique. To reach a deeper layer of meaning about your stories, reread them and write a sentence or two using one of the following prompts:

Now that I reread my story,
I am aware….
or I notice….
or I feel….

Include your feelings and new awareness in your stories.

For More

Do you have questions about the purpose or process of writing the wisdom of your world? Contact Susan.

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