Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Homework: Write down 10 things on separate scraps of paper. Mix them up. Write down definitions for those 10 things on separate scraps of paper. Mix them up. Take a random thing and random definition and write them down as one line. Do this until you’ve defined everything. Write it out as a poem. Sample lines are given below as an example.

Jealousy is the man who tends wildlife.
A house is a feeling of togetherness.
Death is a container kept at a constant low temperature.
A car is a long stick with bristles.
Harmony is the pre-ordained road of life.
A rainbow is a pain inside the head.
Grief is the gathering of waterdrops in the sky.
A book is the large grandiose home of royalty.
Comfort is overindulgence in food and wealth.
A barge is a dwelling in which to live a simple life.
Love is the fruit Eve was forbidden to eat.
Happiness is that which gives pleasure to the beholder.
A headache is a place where people live.
Fear is something you attach to the floor to stop doors from opening.
A car is violence of the human heart.
Destiny is an implement for digging.
Pain is a set of teeth with four legs attached to it.
Happiness is the movement of your life.
A feeling is a violent game that men play.
An Army General is a meal ticket.
Honey is a time-filled space.
Life is a mistake.
Greed is Joy.
An aeroplane is misery.
Anger is care-free elation.
A boat is a means of transport for some and prestige for others.
Misery travels on water.
Tension is a furry animal.
Love is a spectrum of colours in the sky caused by rain being a prism and breaking the light.


All the books in the world
Will bring you no happiness
Instead they surreptitiously point you back
Into your self
There you will find what you want
The sun, the stars, the moon
Because the light you are asking for
Dwells within your self.
— Hermann Hesse

I want to hear your excuses for not writing. Just this once. Then we’ll set about banishing them.

My favourite excuse was from a student once who said they couldn’t write because they had a Duke of Edinburgh trip.

Here are some of mine:
I have Writer’s Block
I need an Apple Mac / Typewriter / Magic Pen before I can write anything
My muse doesn’t love me
I saw my muse flirting with Haruki Murakami
I’m too busy
I lack inspiration, motivation, and inclination. In that order.
My head is a leaky bucket and all the good ideas have dribbled out
It’s been too long since I’ve written anything
I’m not a writer. If I write something people will realise this and hunt me down and kill me!
I’m the greatest writer on earth. If I write something people will realise this and hunt me down and kill me!
I’m scared of blank pages
I want a cup of tea
I’m too tired… 12 hours sleep per day is not enough for one individual
I REALLY want a cup of tea
Life is meaningless — so what’s the point?
Everything has already been written by someone better than me — so what’s the point?
In billions of years time the sun will burn out, or we’ll already be extinct — so what’s the point?
Um — what’s the point?

Life’s one big Duke of Edinburgh trip. So, what’s your excuse?

Dorothea Brande was an American writer and editor who wrote two of my favourite books: Wake Up and Live and Becoming a Writer.

Here are Dorothea Brande’s 12 mental exercises to help you break out of ruts in your life. Roll some dice, or pick one at random, and do as instructed.

  1. Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.

  2. Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.

  3. Write a letter without using the words I, me, mine, my.

  4. Talk for 15 minutes a day without using I, me, my, mine.

  5. Write a letter in a “successful” or placid tone. No misstatements, no lying. Look for aspects or activities that can be honestly reported that way.

  6. Pause on the threshold of any crowded room and size it up.

  7. Keep a new acquaintance talking about himself or herself without allowing him to become conscious of it. Turn back any courteous reciprocal questions in a way that your auditor doesn’t feel rebuffed.

  8. Talk exclusively about yourself and your interests without complaining, boasting, or boring your companions.

  9. Cut “I mean” or “As a matter of fact” or any other verbal mannerism out of your conversation.

  10. Plan two hours of a day and stick to the plan.

  11. Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikelist place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.

  12. From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.

Opening Lines

Posted: February 17, 2015 in graffiti living
Tags: , ,

What do the following passages have in common and how’s it relevant to your writing?

Have a guess and I’ll tell you in a follow-up post.

I’ll give you a clue: It’s not just that they are effective openings. It’s not that they rock. And it’s not that they were picked from my own bookshelf.

All of these things are true, but there’s something else that’s far more important.

Answers on a postcard… alright, in a comment:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have two haemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. — JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun into my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. For a long time though, Tyler and I were best friends. — Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

It wasn’t until we were halfway through France that we noticed Maretta wasn’t talking. She sat very still in the back of the van and watched us all with bright eyes. — Esther Freud, Hideous Kinky

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. — Albert Camus, The Outsider

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing in particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail around a little and see the watery part of the world. — Herman Melville, Moby Dick

‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’ There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Peter, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. — Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

The lie detector was asleep when he heard the telephone ringing. At first he believed it was the clock ordering him to rise, but then he awakened completely and remembered his profession. The voice he heard was rusty, as if disguised. He could not distinguish what altered it: alcohol, drugs, anxiety or fear. — Anais Nin, A Spy in the House of Love

I had a job and Patti didn’t. I worked a few hours a night for the hospital. It was a nothing job. I did some work, signed the card for eight hours, went drinking with the nurses. After a while, Patti wanted a job. She said she needed a job for her self-respect. So she started selling multiple vitamins door to door. – Raymond Carver, Vitamins

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. — Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Her first feeling, as she smelled the air, was one of intense and helpless gratitude. I’m alright, she thought with a gasp. Time – it’s starting again. She tried to blink away all the water in her eyes, but there was too much to deal with and she soon shut them tight. — Martin Amis, Other People

Some catastrophic situations invite clarity, explode in split moments: You smash your hand through a window-pane and then there is blood and shattered glass stained with red all over the place; you fall out a window and break some bones and scrape some skin. Stitches and casts and bandages and antiseptic solve and salve the wounds. But depression is not a sudden disaster. — Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Dialogue Exercises

Posted: February 16, 2015 in graffiti living
Tags: , , ,

Here are some dialogue exercises to try:

  • Record yourself in conversation. Write down what you say throughout the day. Try to be aware of the things that you say to people and the way that you say them.
  • Listen to other people. Record someone else’s conversation (try not to get caught). Listen out for odd lines — people say the weirdest stuff to each other.
  • Take notice of half-heard conversations where you only hear snippets — even though you don’t know the beginning you’ll still get the gist of what they’re talking about. Write a scene that does this.
  • Try and tell a story through nothing but dialogue. Eg. Write a passage where one person is trying to tell a story to another, and they keep interrupting.
  • People rarely understand each other. Write a passage where characters completely miss the point of what each other are saying. Eg. One asks a question, and the other answers a different question.
  • People rarely say what they mean. Write a passage where characters lie, deceive, make snide comments or use double meanings. Unlike politicians, try to make it as convincing as possible.
  • Come back and tell me how you got on.