Five Exercises To Be A Better Writer

Do you ever just let your mind go completely blank? Not in, lost your mind, had a lobotomy or went on a bender. But as in, disconnect yourself from all electronic gadgets, stop doing or planning stuff. Just wipe the blackboard clean and see what happens.

I have many of those moments while doing my yoga. I lie on the floor on my mat, and I've done this for so many years (16), that I don't have to think to know what to stretch next. 

It is during these times that my mind wanders. (Thankfully it comes back by the time I'm done.) But I get a lot of good old-fashioned thinking done while I'm stretching my tight muscles. 

People ask me about writing. Knowing what to write. How to write. I don't have the answer to that. I went to journalism school and majored in professional writing. But I was creating stories by the time I started grade school. 

Which, way back then, was 6. We actually had five whole years to make mud pies and climb trees without our lives being planned at least 16 hours out of 24.

I kind of blame all the parents who plan their child's day out to the nth degree for squelching their creativity. (Aren't they called helicopter parents?) The children don't need to think because their parents have already done it for them. 

When I write, I don't really think all that much. I just let my mind go where it wants to. And it's a funny thing, I realized this morning during the yoga stretching, that I automatically go visual when I have a thought I want to express

What I mean by that is: I will think of, say, something being covered. And my mind will automatically have a little visual tacked onto the end. This morning it was a can of paint being knocked over. In essence, something being covered up by paint. It could have been any number of things, but this morning a paint can turned over and spilling paint everywhere popped into my mind.

Now I don't know quite how I came to start doing this. I don't know if I trained myself without realizing it. Or if it is just a natural component of who I am. 

When I write, I often use analogies and metaphors. It helps me to break down how I feel, and it in turn expresses that in words. If I know what I want to express, but the word I want is just not popping into my head, I just Google thesaurus and it will prompt me.

Because if you force that word, it probably won't work. Let the word compare itself to others.

I often wonder if all this came from being bored in church as a child and making up crossword puzzles. Fitting the words into pencil-drawn boxes, and then having to come up with the words that gave a hint as to what would fit into those little boxes. 

Which was, really, kind of doing things backward. I could have come up with the words I wanted to put in the crossword puzzle, then write the hints, then filled it all in. 

So I kind of credit that for how I began to think when I write. 

If it does not come natural to you, and you want to broaden your writing skills, then begin to train your brain with these exercises:

  • When you're thinking about something, pause and visualize it. Once you have it pictured, let your mind just roam. As though you've put your car radio on scan and it hops from one station to another. (See, that's one right there.)

  • Then put visual cues to your thoughts. If you are thinking of, say, baking cookies, picture doing it in your mind. Cue in the other sensory elements: smell, sound, sight. Sometimes it's easier to close your eyes to do this if you aren't accustomed to this little exercise. Then you can move beyond what is in front of you and think freely.

  • What do those cookies smell like? What do they look like? How do you feel while baking them? Of course you aren't baking the cookies any place but in your thoughts. But this is your movie and you are the star of it and you can lead it anywhere you want it to go.

  • Once you have the visuals down, put words to them. Not just: I think I'm going to bake cookies. But let that thought lead you forward. Maybe you'll think about baking cookies with your grandmother, and then you'll envision her kitchen. Maybe her wrinkled hands rolling out the cookie dough. See what I mean? A memory will naturally superimpose itself at about this particular juncture.

  • Don't try too hard. Don't chase the words. Let them come to you in a natural fashion, without putting too much thought into it. Don't write them down as soon as the thought comes to you. Let it keep drifting for a bit. 
  • Once you "exercise" your brain in this fashion, it will automatically begin to go through the motions. And you will be a better writer. Why? Because you let your whole being embrace it.  And that is how you become creative.

Oftentimes, like today, I sit down with my laptop and intend to write about one thing, yet something else gets written. I guess that's because, unless I have to write about a certain subject, I just let my thoughts go wherever they want. 

Like a leaf in the wind, it blows from one spot to another. And lands who knows where. It's always a surprise. 

On the other hand, if someone asked me to draw or paint my thoughts, I would look at them blankly. Because I can't do that. It's simply not in my creative repertoire. 

One other tip I think is very important: read. Read, read and then read some more. Reading stretches your brain like yoga stretches my muscles.

I'm no expert on absolutely anything. I just know what works for me. Give me a thought, and I can run with it.

And now if someone could please teach me how to not be so concrete, I would appreciate your insight.  If someone could teach me how to get the gist of jokes, I would know when to laugh. If someone would teach me how to be more outgoing and social, I would feel more at ease amongst crowds or parties.

See, there's lots of things I simply have no earthly idea how to do. 

They say that those who can't, teach. I don't think that is true at all. If someone can't, there is a reason. And if you tackle the reason, then you figure out how "you can." And if you can, please then teach others how you figured it out.  

Now you know why stretching your body's muscles and your brain's muscles are so important.

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  1. You have a gift for writing Brenda. Some of us struggle to convey our thoughts. How wonderful you are able to share your thoughts so eloquently. ♥

  2. Love your gift of writing. Your work is so enjoyable to read and give thought too. I love to write and need to do more of it, but somehow my paint brushes get in the way. When I do however find time to write, I love the process and my thoughts just take off in a direction that let my heart just sing!!
    I need to get out my yoga matte.
    Hugs, Celestina Marie

  3. This was wonderful, having an insight as to how your creative mind works! My old boss, who was a teacher in his former life, always said, "If you want to really learn something, you have to teach it." Kind of the opposite of "those who can't, teach," don't you think? I do believe that each time we try to teach someone something, we also learn a little bit more than what we knew before. Thank you for sharing your creative writing methods with us!

  4. Yes a great gift for writing you have Brenda! Take care and thanks for these exercises!!

  5. Thank you for the insight into your mind's wanderings!

  6. I so look forward to your informative posts. One thing on my bucket list is to write a book. Till I figure out what that book shall be about, I will take your pointers and keep them in the back pocket of my favorite, worn and slightly snug jeans!

  7. Very insightful Brenda! You certainly have a gift for writing! ;)

  8. These are such wonderful tips. I am an avid reader and a fairly good writer, but sometimes when I try to write, I think too darn much to be productive. It is better when I let things flow. I love the pictures in this post! Your plants are beautiful, and I just love that cardinal. I'm still waiting for mine to come back. :(


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