Exercising the Writing Muscle

Contributing writer Laura Brackin gives some advice and tips on how to continue developing your writing skills and getting in that daily writing practice.

Professionals don’t become great in their specialty because they made As in school. While this helps them become the professionals they want to be, developing their skills doesn’t stop once they receive their diploma.

It’s what they continue to do after they get started on their path that keeps them on top.

Doctors study for many years and go through laborious internship programs before they get into their practice where they continue to keep up with new discoveries in medicine. Athletes practice long hours to perfect their skills for their chosen sport, and continue that practice throughout their careers. Once an engineer learns math and physics, they must continue to stay abreast of advancements in technology in order to remain relevant in our ever changing world.

The same is true for writers; we not only need to study the greats of the past and keep up with current writing trends, we must also write daily. Practice our craft. Exercise our writing muscle.

It’s easy to let days slip by without putting pen to paper, especially when you think you don’t have anything to write about. You may have just finished drafting a manuscript, story, or poem, and you are in revision mode, not thinking about keeping up with actual writing. It’s true, though, that these periods could stretch into months; while you begin to get tunnel vision regarding the work you’ve been editing, any new thoughts get pushed to the back of your brain where they possibly die, and you cut off the creative center crying for a voice.

It is important to give yourself time to turn off the logic for a few minutes and let your brain play.

One easy and fun way to do that and get some writing in is to use prompts. There are websites and apps devoted to daily writing prompts to get us started when we  need help, but here are a few to get you going right now:

  • You are sitting on the back row, alone, at a funeral for a close friend or family member. Someone sits down next to you, and you find it is the person who is being eulogized. What do they say to you? Follow the conversation to its conclusion.
  • You are packing up and moving to another house. When you go back into the old house for a last look, making sure you have gotten everything, you say, “Goodbye house,” to which the house responds. What does it say?
  • You wake up one morning to find yourself on a cloud floating above your town. You can direct this cloud to go anywhere in the world, but you cannot get off of it. Where do you go and what do you observe?
  • Write about the time you met Benjamin Franklin (or whichever historical figure you wish).
  • Tell the Cinderella story from the point of view of the glass slipper, or Little Red Riding Hood from the perspective of her basket for Granny.

Another fun thing to do is to take a mundane subject like making coffee and write it in the style of a distinctive voice such as Edgar Allan Poe or William Faulkner. 

It doesn’t have to be a long or elaborate piece of work, and you never know what novel, short story or poem idea could spark from prompt writing. The point is that it is important to let yourself dream, imagine, and create, and daily exercise is the key.

LAURA BRACKIN is a student at Sam Houston State University where she studies in the MFA program for Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing. She works part time with the Texas Review Press and desires to work as an editor upon graduation, while also building a career as a prose writer. She lives in The Woodlands with her husband, two teenaged kids, and her English pointer.

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