I have been a passionate reader ever since I was a child. Opening a book for me is like stepping into another world, slipping on someone else’s wardrobe and checking in their cupboards for naughty secrets.
And if I’m going keep reading there better be lots of secrets! I may not want tension, conflict and despair in my own life, but I definitely want to see my characters go to hell and back.
Of course, once I started writing myself, I realized it’s easy to be a critic, but not so easy to be the writer delivering ongoing conflict, coherent plot, compelling prose and a strong sense of character, while following that Golden Rule of Writing: SHOW. DON’T TELL.
Find your Writers Voice and Shut Down Your Internal Critic With A Free Writing Exercise
Free writing exercises are a crucial weapon in the writer’s arsenal. There are many variations, but they all have one thing in common.
Writing Exercises free up your mind and your narrative, and they stir up your creative juices.
I find it helpful in writing to distinguish between my right and left brain. My creative right brain is my intuitive story teller. It has access to the brilliance within – the best language skills, original plotlines and unique solutions to my character’s problems.
My logical left brain, on the other hand, is a natural editor. It knows what isn’t working and can analyze the strengths and defects of the narrative with alarming efficiency. In creative writing we need both brains at different times of the writing process. You can’t find your story with your thinking left brain, but it’s great for critiquing and editing a rough draft.
The problem is that the creative right brain can be an temperamental beast. Sometimes, it’s there and the magic flows. Then, even our first rough words have a certain quality. We can hear our unique writer’s voice and our characters, and there is an exciting foundation from which we can build.
Other times, the right brain locks up. It’s there, but we don’t have the key. We look at an empty page and the knot starts in our stomach. We start writing but all we can think as we type is “this is such shit”. Hardly encouragement to keep going.
Free Writing Exercises…
kick your authentic writer’s voice into gear
are a great way to warm up before starting on a long project like a novel
provide new possibilities for a short story
help you nut out plot problemsare a god-send for beating the dreaded writer’s block and throwing you back into your story
My novel has been sitting around waiting for my attention lately and so I thought a free writing exercise on something completely different might get my excitement back for story telling.
First, get a pen and paper. Don’t do this on computer. Now:
Create a name, a job, marital status and location.
Lie back, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths. Really fill your lungs with air and then exhale until there’s nothing left. Return to normal breathing, feel the peace spread through your body.
Now pick up write for 5 minutes. Go with the first ideas that come to mind. Whatever comes out is okay. First person, third person, whatever. Don’t judge.
I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but here are the results of my latest free writing exercise. I’ve fixed the typos, but other than that there’ s been no editing (it kills me to say that – what am I thinking exposing myself this way?):
The Tale of Lovely Loralee
Lovely Loralee, Porn Star, married, from Mackay in North Queensland, Australia
“I remember when I was a little girl, all I wanted in the world was an antique dolls house. You know, one of those traditional two story English Tudor houses where the back opens up and you can get into all the rooms inside. There used to be this one that was always advertised in the Readers Digest.
My dad had it delivered by mail every month for pretty much my entire childhood. In fact, it was the only reading my dad ever did. Never read the paper, and mum always said he didn’t know what was what in the world and didn’t much care. Dad used to tell her he was a sugar farmer and it weren’t none of his business what people did in other far off parts.
Anyway, the Readers Digest advertised this dolls house every month and god it was beautiful. But so damn expensive. Like more money than my parents would spend on me for ten birthdays! Not that my parents didn’t love me, or want me to have nice things, but money was as rare as snow on palm trees in my household. We never had any.
Christmas time brought presents, but second hand stuff mostly. Things like old bikes repainted and given new tyres or sometimes I’d get a barbie and my mum would sit up late sewing these tiny clothes for her by hand. My brother Gary used to get model aeroplane kits. So dorky. But that’s what he liked. You’d never think it though if you’d seen him then. Real handsome Gary was. Strong build, blond, and with the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. Real tall too, a footie player and one of the most popular boys in school.
It’s not like I ever thought I could have the dolls house. But even so, every month I’d wait for the magazine to arrive. I used to collect the mail; that was one of my chores. All kids need chores my mum used to say. So I’d collect everyone’s mail and we had a special wooden rack with mail slots for everyone and that’s where I’d put the mail every afternoon when I collected it. My mum made the mail rack ‘cause she was real handy and she painted it bright blue and put rose stencils on the corners, and it hung from a brass chain in the kitchen. It was real beautiful, just like my mum.
When the Readers Digest would arrive, dad would come by after tea and collect it from the rack. Then he’d sit in his tatty brown easy chair with the coffee stains on the armrests, and smoke his pipe and read that magazine so slowly I swear it fucking near killed me in the waiting. It was unusual for him to take two nights to read it, or sometimes more. But until he finished it and slid it into the magazine rack by the telly I couldn’t take that Readers Digest. So, I’d watch him like a hawk and lunge on it the minute he was done.
I’d pore over the pictures of that dolls house, dreaming of what it’d look like in my bedroom. They always showed you a big picture of the front of the house with the peaked roof and Tudor style wooden panels, and it had those lovely criss-cross windows that always made me think of royalty. And there’d be little pictures of what was inside each of the rooms. Man if that dolls house weren’t posher than any real house I’d ever seen. I couldn’t imagine a world where people lived in houses like that. The furniture was so fine and modeled off real “Edwardian design” they said. Chairs with clawed legs and maroon velvet covers; so delicate they’d probably break if you touched them. And there was real wallpaper and tiny little paintings of landscapes and stuff. It was amazing.
Every birthday and Christmas ‘till I was ten I asked for that dolls house, and after that, well let’s just say that my birthday wasn’t exactly a cause for celebration. My mum died on my tenth birthday you see. Tried to bake me a cake in a dodgy oven and there was a gas explosion. They say she died instantly. It near blew her face off.
I wasn’t around luckily. Think I’d gone to swimming practice that afternoon, so it was Gary who found her. It was the strangest thing because the oven blew up and the kitchen caught on fire, but somehow it fizzled out before the whole house burnt down.
Gary said he never even knew anything was wrong until he opened the door. Even walking up the front path past the kangaroo paws. Even as he was standing on the broken front porch taking his shoes off just like mum taught us, he couldn’t smell the fire, couldn’t see it, felt nothing.
They say people have a sixth sense but I don’t believe it. If Gary hadn’t felt anything when he was not more than a few feet away from my dead mother, with the chocolate cake splattered around the burnt kitchen tiles, how can people sense anything?”
My first thought is it’s clunky and long winded, but there’s something there I could work with if I wanted to. I also never expected the beginning to end where it did, so I think this is a perfect example of freeing up your creativity.
What do you think?
And does anyone else fancy having a go? You can email it your writing to me and I’ll tell you what I think, if you like. You never know, you could find a seed for a future novel.
Photo by Louise LeBourgieos