A Writing Exercise to Help Fill that Blank Page

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest thing about writing. You have ideas, seemingly brilliant, written down in some hidden file on your computer or inside a creased notebook, but when you actually sit down to write–nothing.

Even though I love writing, it can feel like an enormous weight at times. Not the act of writing itself, but the pressure of having to fill up all that emptiness with something that actually matters. A fellow contributor recently shared an article with me published on Cracked.com with some writing advice that made sense and an exercise to help writers stuck in a rut.

First, if you’re not enjoying yourself, just quit. This isn’t news to all of you, but, still, I think sometimes we all need to be reminded. Writing shouldn’t be an agonizing chore. If you aren’t enjoying the process, then it’s more than likely that your readers will not either.

Robert Brockway, author of the article, compares writing to a game; writing exercises are the cheat codes that will help you get through the tough levels. The great thing about this game is that you can do whatever you want. In the literary world, writers are gods, who can create places, people, anything.

And since you can do anything you want, why not start from the end? The writing process doesn’t have to be linear. Eventually, there will be a beginning and an end, but it doesn’t really matter how you get there. As Brockway writes:

Why not write the cacophonous, mad, tragic, soul-shattering climax to a magnum opus that never existed? Start with the heartbreaking death of your main character, and write it like thousands of readers have already grown to know and love them. Reveal the mind-blowing plot twist without ever having to go through the drudgery of setting it up.

The most important thing about this exercise is just to write. Don’t edit yourself. Don’t pay attention to grammar or spelling. Just think of an ending that you want to write, and then figure out how that character got there. It is extremely possible that everything you write will be garbage. Or that once you figure out how your character got there (and who they are for that matter) you’ll want to change your ending. And that’s okay. The point is that trying out different writing exercises is a way to challenge yourself as a writer–a way to bring back the excitement and fun when all you feel is writer’s block.

– Melanie Figueroa

Melanie Figueroa

Melanie is the Editor in Chief at The Poetics Project. Having earned a masters in writing and book publishing from Portland State University and gained experience as an in-house editor, she now works as a freelance editor and writer. Her favorite book is The Bell Jar. You can follow Melanie on Twitter or Instagram @wellmelsbells.

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Comments

  1. evalangston

    I agree — I’ve gotten some really great stories out of writing prompts and exercises! Sometimes literary journals give you prompts — then you have a readymade place to send your story to. See here: http://inthegardenofeva.com/2013/02/09/day-202-18-literary-journals-that-inspire-you-to-write/

    Also, I just wrote a blog post about writing exercises inspired by chimps. http://inthegardenofeva.com/2013/07/29/can-a-chimp-write-a-poem-apes-language-chimp-inspired-writing-exercises/

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