How To Improve Writing Skills With Writing Exercises

Question no more how to improve your writing skills! You will be able to stretch your imagination and your use of words with these five writing exercises that explore description and metaphors.

I take writing classes and workshops whenever I can. It's so easy to get stuck in a rut, but when you have someone dishing out writing assignments, you're forced to pull yourself out. Here are 5 exercises I've done over the years. Stretch yourself!

1) Take a mediocre, horrible or fabulous piece of your writing. It doesn't need to be long, just writing. Go through it and look for non-descript words, such as 'nice', 'beautiful' and 'wonderful'. List these words, and detail what they are actually supposed to be describing.

A nice outfit - Nice means as many things as there are people! Does nice mean green or blue? Cotton or polyester? A skirt or pants? Matching or eclectic?

A beautiful day - Some folks like rain, some love the sun. Are there clouds? Is it morning or evening? Is it a day to lounge at home or go out and socialize? What constitutes a beautiful day? Beauty? What's that?

You can see by these examples that non-descript words rob your writing of what makes it unique - you!

2) This is one of my favorites. I came across it as I was studying metaphors. On the left side of the page, list tangible nouns. Ocean, flood, steam shovel, cinder block, spoon. On the right side of the page, list intangible nouns. Respect, desire, hunger, flight. Now combine them in a phrase like this:

'a of '. Examples would be 'an ocean of respect', a spoonful of desire'. Let yourself get carried away with this, and you will come up with some very powerful images.

3) Open up a dictionary. Choose a word and write about it for 10 minutes, non-stop. Choose another word and do the same. Choose a third and write 10 more minutes. Although you have three different words, there may be a common thread running through them. Look for it. The day I did this, the rainy weather permeated my three pieces of random writing. If a thread is not there, try and connect these three separate pieces of writing.

4) Make a list about something. Choose something ordinary and make a list of things about it or related to it. Do it off the top of your head, taking just 10 minutes or so. Now read it. You will feel a rhythm to it after a few lines, and it will sound poetic. If you make a list about a kiss or love or flowers, you may have a sweet poem when you're done.

The class I did this in listed a yard sale. Sounds dull? It was actually very interesting to hear what everyone had to say about a yard sale, the contents, the seller, the other buyers, the type of day it was and so on. A yard sale is not dull subject matter!

5) Find a picture in a magazine. Make sure it interests you. Look this picture over carefully for just a minute and write about it for at least 10 minutes. Describe the detail, the light, the subject matter. Are there people? What are they thinking? How did they get there? Who are they? You could do the traditional 'Who What When Where Why' routine. You'll be surprised at how much you can see in a picture when you have to!

These are just a few exercises to keep your creativity flowing. You can enhance them by doing them with your writing friends, too. It's entertaining and enlightening to hear how others respond to the same exercises. Don't be afraid to try a class or a workshop, either! Good luck and have fun!

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