Today on the blog, Jacob Chambless joins me to talk about the important of mental workouts for writers.
Mental Workouts for Writers
By Jacob Chambless
No one seems surprised by the fact that athletes have to practice a lot to stay in shape. Although we know it, we tend to forget that it’s not only sportsmen who need to stay in shape: every person who wants to succeed in his or her chosen profession must work hard and practice continually.
Like athletes writers need to stay fit: the more they work, the better they become. Even if you are a great writer already, practicing will keep your mind sharp and help you stay at the top of your game. If you’re willing to give it a try, here are my ten favorite mental workouts to help you get started.
Like athletes writers need to stay fit: the more they work, the better they become.
- Brainstorm new titles.
Let’s start with something pleasant. Try to come up with 10 titles for books you’re planning or hope to one day write. If you don’t have many plots in mind, try variations or come up with new ones.
- Sell an unusual pet.
Imagine you’re a copywriter who needs to write an ad selling a pet. Sounds easy at first, doesn’t it? Now imagine that this pet isn’t a mere kitten or a puppy – instead, think about something more interesting: like a crocodile, a capybara, etc. Even if the animal or project sounds weird, your job depends upon your writing this ad. Try to make your ad as effective and compelling as possible.
- Write your own creative definitions.
Open your dictionary to a random page, find a word you don’t recognize, then do your best to define it, being as detailed as possible. This will help you to exercise your imagination.
- Go forth into the world, listen, and imagine.
Go to a café or another public place. Watch the people around you; if you can, try to listen in on a conversation, then come up with a story based on their dialogue. If you can’t hear the words, don’t worry: you can make up your own story. Try to imagine who these people are based on how they look, talk, and behave. Try to imagine how they are connected and then write about it.
- Create a character you want to hate – but can’t.
You’ve probably done something like this many times already, but this specific task is a bit different. Your goal is to create a character that possesses a mix of features/qualities you both like and dislike in others. For example, a character you find physically attractive might have a personality you dislike or vice versa. Being a writer means creating complex characters, so try to make this one as complex as possible.
- From the written word, go off on a tangent.
Take any book from your bookshelf and open it to a random page. Look at the first sentence and try to write a short story or a vignette starting with this sentence (but obviously with a different plot).
If you want to make this task more challenging, open to another random page and look at the last sentence (or choose the last sentence of a chapter or the final sentence in the book). Make this sentence the ending of your story.
- Try a new angle.
It’s always interesting and useful to explore familiar plots, looking at them from a different angle. For this exercise, rewrite a well-known story or a fairytale using a different point of view: for example, tell the story from the antagonist’s pov or the pov of a minor character. Explore character traits, deepen motivations, and make the character more – or less – charismatic.
- Write a letter to yourself.
When we were kids, many of us wrote letters to our future selves. Because we did it as children doesn’t mean we should stop doing it just because we’ve grown up. Try writing such letter right now. Describe how your life looks, how you feel about the way your life has turned out, and so on. It can be hard for writers to write deeply personal stories, but it’s a good challenge and one you might find useful.
- Try writing a poem.
Not all writers are comfortable writing poetry, and that’s okay. But trying your hand at an unfamiliar genre is a great way to broaden your creativity. For this exercise, pick a subject and write a poem about it. Here is a list of different types of poems to help you get your creative juices flowing.
- Rewrite an old work.
Even if this exercise doesn’t improve your writing skills, it will definitely inspire you. Choose an early work, rewrite in your current style, and notice the differences. You are in for a pleasant surprise!
I hope that these tips will help you become the best writer you can be! Enjoy!
About Jacob Chambless
Jacob Chambless is an educator at Jacksonville University. He is always ready to help students, sharing his experience and tips on particular subject. “Writing articles is my passion,” he says. “I want to share my knowledge with other people.”
I'd love to hear your thoughts!