Exercising Your Creative Muscles.

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For Christmas I asked for a subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine. While I haven’t entered any of their contests in a while (say like a year), I do enjoy reading the articles that they publish. And while I can often get them online for free, I’d rather be able to turn the pages in my hand, and stop half-way through an article if I have to, or want to. Well guess what? I got it. And my first magazine came in yesterday (oddly enough it’s February’s issue), which is why I waited until today to make my post.

In this edition of Writer’s Digest, there was an article about exercising your creative muscles. “Skill-Builders for Fiction Writers,” by Mike Nappa, gave a list of things to do, what that “exercise” was supposed to do for your writing, and how to make make the most of it. In short, this is a review of one article in the February issue of Writer’s Digest.

Exercise: For enhancing our plot building, the first exercise he lists is “Play alongside a kid.” This is supposed to help you put more imagination into your plotting by immersing yourself completely in the child’s world of make-believe. He then suggests that you ask the child why they made certain decisions.

Pros: First, this is fun. If you have access to a child and haven’t done this, then you’re missing out on something that, although it’s completely exhausting, is also far more enjoyable than you’ll admit later. Second, it really is a great way to see things from a different perspective. If you’re crawling around on all fours, pretending to be horse, rearing, and whinnying and all the rest, you get not only a different perspective physically (you are, after all, on all fours) but you have to ask yourself: what would a horse do?

Cons: The obvious con here is that not everyone has a kid to play with. A writer might be an only child so no nieces or nephews, and they might not have children of their own. Another con, I find that children are relying more on television and video games than their own imagination. My third con for this one, don’t ask a child why. They’ll just as likely give you no reason as a real reason (especially the youngest ones). I would humbly suggest that you interpret why. It would be more beneficial to your skill building than simply asking anyway.

Overall: If you have a child, who uses their imagination, then this is a great exercise. However, not everyone has a child at their disposal. I would suggest, instead, simply changing your perspective deliberately. Go outside, sit against a tree and imagine what it would say to you. Imagine all the sights and sounds it has experienced and write that down. It may even spark a story.

Exercise: To help build characters, Nappa suggests that you “Let characters define themselves.” This one I really enjoyed, mostly because I thought it was funny. He suggests that you create facebook personalities for each (main) character. This will really bring your characters to life as you fill out their likes, dislikes, philosophies and religion.

Pros: This exercise will help make your characters real in a way that “describing” them can’t. What, after all, is cooler than logging into facebook and seeing your character as a “friend?”

Cons: This exercise theoretically must be done online. Also, if you want a separate account for each character, you’ll have to get an email to match it, according to fb’s new rules.

Overall: Totally funny, and I’m gonna try it. It may be useful to create one account that you can change the information on. Print them out as you finish and start over. Another way: make up a table (using Facebook as a guidline…or not, whichever), and fill it out. You can save them all to one file, or have separate files for each…and no need for the internet.

 

Exercise: The last exercise he provides is supposed to help you adapt your writing: Use every fifth word in this article. He suggests that you highlight every fifth word in the article (the one he wrote had about 160) and use them to write a story.

Pros: Definitely helps adaptation. I’ve done this exercise before, although not in Writer’s Digest. I felt my mind being stretched because in the one I tried we had to use only those words, Nappa gives no such limitation, which makes it far easier in my opinion.

Cons: Theoretically you need something in paper, however, if you can copy and paste into word it’s just as effective.

Overall: Loved this one. You can use any article, any number, and can use just those words, or you can add to it. It’s a very versatile exercise.

 

These are just a few of the exercises given in the article, and on the whole, I enjoyed reading it. However, I feel that if you’re going to present an “exercise” routine for promoting creativity, they should be offered in a way that everyone can do.

I hope you enjoyed this little review, and by all means, try an exercise.

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4 Comments

Filed under Reviews, The Writing Life, Writing, Writing Tools

4 responses to “Exercising Your Creative Muscles.

  1. Hi! Thank you for the pingback! Your site looks interesting and I will check it out more as soon as I get back from running errands. 🙂

  2. I find that interacting with a wide variety of different people from different cultures, backgrounds, races, genders, etc. than my own has been a big creativity booster. It opens my mind to a lot of possibilities that wouldn’t exist if I kept my interaction insular.

    I will also add to another problem with the “facebook” technique: this only works if your character exists in a contemporary world (i.e. one in which Facebook exists). If you write in a pre-industrial Epic Fantasy world, for example, creating a “Facebook” for your character (whether real online, or a facimile offline) will feel false. My pre-modern characters would never have a Facebook and never think of things in a way that’s digestible in a facebook format.

    • That is a good idea, to interact with people from cultures other than your own. It’s a lot harder in a smaller town, you actually have to look for those kinds of opportunities, but it is possible. It would be much easier in a bigger city.
      And you’re right. I hadn’t thought of pre-modern characters not thinking in way that is “digestible in a facebook format,” but that definitely would present a problem. Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. for once its sooo gud to hear there a person just like me! who would rather turn and feel the pages of a book or a mag.. rather then read it online 🙂

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