Like any muscle, your brain needs to stay active in order to achieve its peak potential. Just as you would before any workout, it is important to warm up before getting into the act of writing. Here are five quick and easy exercises to stretch your creativity and get your brain ready to perform at its highest level.
1) Listen to Some Tunes
Listening to music before getting to work has two major benefits. Firstly, it is a great way to free your mind from conscious thought – the music and lyrics can distract that voice in your head and allow your mind to wander freely. Secondly, the music itself can serve as a writing prompt! Before sitting down to focus on your work, play a song (preferably instrumental) and see what it inspires you to write about.
2) Do a Crossword
There is no better way to broaden your vocabulary than by doing a crossword. Beyond expanding your inner dictionary, a well-crafted crossword will also challenge you to think creatively as many of the answers will involve wordplay, meaning you will need to pay close attention to how the clues are written. Even if you don’t finish an entire crossword before every writing session, spending a few minutes on a word puzzle will get you thinking outside the box.
3) Edit Someone Else’s Work
Even if there isn’t a specific project on hand that someone has asked you to edit, going over someone else’s writing with a critical lens will help you sharpen your own writing skills. There is always room for improvement in a written work (and even the most eagle-eyed proofreaders can miss things), so find an online posting or a published article that is of interest to you and go over it with your red or blue pen.
4) Alphabetise Your Writing
A popular freewriting exercise is alphabet writing – starting each sentence or paragraph with the letters of the alphabet, in order from A to Z. To really challenge yourself, take this to the next level by selecting a completed piece of writing (yours or otherwise) and rewriting it to follow this alphabetic style. This is a great exercise to think about reframing a sentence or phrase and to break any tired sentence-starting habits that you tend to fall back on.
5) Write the Headlines
This exercise can work two ways: words first or image first. To begin, grab a newspaper or open an online news forum (one with featured images). To try “words first,” take a look at a headline but not any accompanying image or story and use that as a prompt to write a quick article on the topic. Because news writing follows the basic style of the “Five Ws” (who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how) this is a great exercise in getting the important facts down for setting a scene. Alternatively, you could go for the “image first” approach and look at a featured image (without scanning the headline) and then write a news story based on what you observe as taking place in the photograph. Either way, stick to the Five Ws and challenge yourself to come up with a fully developed story. And you can always see how well your idea matched up to the actual events!
Still not feeling stretched out enough to get down to writing? Check out our previous post Writing Wednesday: 5 Easy Exercises to Boost Your Brain Power for more workout ideas.
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When I was drafting an old WIP, I had an upbeat song I would listen to every time I was about to start drafting. Eventually all I had to do was put on that song and I would be itching to go. Such an effective way to trick your brain into gear!
Thanks for sharing your experience! Such an interesting spin on the “Pavlov’s Dog” experiment – and one we should keep in mind.