Are you always on the computer but feel like your writing skills are lacking? How can that be? Probably because you are on autopilot, it happens to the best of us during busy times. But don’t you want to share quality work? And or on the other side of the spectrum, maybe you know you are a writer in your heart and soul, but you keep postponing taking action “until inspiration hits.”
It all comes down to self-discipline, practice, and exercising your creative muscles. You gotta feel the BURN! Imagine if you wanted to be a painter. You can’t expect to just sit down, grab a blank canvas, paint something and expect it to garner a million dollars. Or running in a marathon – you don’t just sign in and show up. You have to clock in some hours of sweat.
Writing is the same way. Whether it’s a novel, a cookbook, blog post, headline, caption or tweet, it’s all the same. You have to practice, practice, practice. And here’s why it is so important to practice writing regularly. If you don’t, you’ll fall into a routine and use the same words, phrases and ideas over and over – boring! Your readers will be bored too.
By no means am I a literary expert, I’m still in the learning and growing stages too. But I am an expert at starting and finishing a project that is important to me. Practicing and reviewing your work builds confidence, lets you see your weak spots so you can refine them, and puts you in the mood to continue on to the bigger goal.
Here are three of my favorite ‘warm up’ exercises that I do. If you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comments! The more the better!
FIRST OF ALL: Turn off the sound of your smartphone, and don’t you dare peek online. You have to focus and do away with distractions!
1. Write reviews. Write up some reviews of products you liked or hated. Maybe not products, but movie or book reviews. Post them to your FB site, on amazon, or just for your own records. Push yourself to scratch away the surface and force yourself to get to the meat of why you loved or hated that book or movie. Be descriptive and specific.
2. Observe and eavesdrop. Tune in to other people’s conversations. It’s not only about the words they say, but the emotion they put into it. If you are writing fiction, this is a great way to get ideas for a character’s background or motivation.
One time at the airport while I waited to board my plane, I overheard two strangers talking about kids. The woman stated that she was a middle child and always felt like the odd one in the family, so she tended to favor her middle child most. The man agreed about the middle child syndrome. He explained that he often ignored his middle teenage daughter because the older daughter needed help with college and the younger daughter was the baby of the family. He said he also avoided the middle daughter because she was always fighting with the strict mom. He said he felt really guilty for not standing up for the girl even when he knew she was right, because he didn’t want to get involved. Next came an uncomfortable pause, as if he realized all of us sitting around him heard his confession. He wrapped up the chat by saying he was going to start sticking up for the daughter when he got home. Right then the attendant announced it was time to board the plane. Talk about awkward!
There was so much going on there, I’ll never forget that experience, it stuck with me. It made me think of his scenario at home. That conversation with a stranger could have triggered a whole new set of circumstances for his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. I was so compelled, I wrote my version of what happened when he got home. It had a happy ending!
3. Collect interesting or profound quotes, and write your interpretation of them. They don’t have to be from famous people, but from everyday folks. This will also give you insight into your personality and help you be more descriptive in daily conversations.
The other day I asked my sister, “What are you doing?” She could have said, “Chilling out.” But she replied, “I’m rubbing the hairs on my eyebrows.” I asked, “Why?” She said, “Because it feels sooo good.”
Is that awesomeness or what? That gives me a picture of her in her kooky element. Can you imagine someone rubbing the hair on their eyebrows every time they are in a weird predicament, or every time they lie, etc? Maybe it is the only way they can decompress. Stuff like that is golden!
4. Write a scene from your day. Do you ever have daily adventures that feel like they could be a scene in a sitcom? If you have something funny or out of the ordinary happen to you, go home and write about it as if it were an actual scene from a sitcom. Even if it is just a conversation.
Not only is this a good way to practice writing, but it a great way to document family memories. You can read them at family gatherings or even print them out and make book or calendar as a gift.
5. Write down the words you use a lot, and stop using them! We know what words we fall back on, we are all guilty of that. Choose five words and make lists of new words to use instead. Choose two-three for each one you replace. Do this every month or so. It’s like adding new artists to your playlist!
What do you do to warm up your writing skills? Please share!