7 Writing Exercises to Kickstart Your Creativity

Need some inspiration for your next writing project? Hummingbird in Underworld author Deborah Tobola has 7 exercises to fuel your creativity.
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Need some inspiration for your next writing project? Hummingbird in Underworld author Deborah Tobola has 7 exercises to fuel your creativity.

Deborah Tobola Hummingbird in Underworld

Maybe it’s not exactly writer’s block, but sometimes we sit with a blank screen or notebook and wait for a bolt from the blue, a way to begin a new piece. When that happens, it’s time to play. Here are seven fun ways to kickstart your creativity:

  1. Get out. Have you noticed that traveling often inspires writing? Somehow changing the scenery fuels the creative spirit. It doesn’t have to be a long trip. If you usually write in an office, just get out. Take a hike, visit a nearby farmer’s market, go to the beach—or go to your own backyard. One of my poet friends writes in coffee shops. If you choose that route, it’s a perfect place for #2.
  2. Listen in. A crowded coffee shop is a mother lode if you are listening for scraps of conversation to jot down. Sometimes colorful language will catch your ear, sometimes the nugget of a future storyline.
  3. Cut it up. From magazines and newspapers, cut out 50 to 100 words and phrases, including articles and conjunctions. Put them in a box. With colorful construction paper and a glue stick, make a “graffiti poem.” You might be surprised at what you create!
  4. Cook it. Write a poem explaining how to prepare a dish. In my poem about teaching my niece to make roast duck, a Thanksgiving tradition, I’m also giving a cooking lesson to my readers: “We rinse the bird, pat it dry and pierce its skin with a sharp fork./ Now rub it with salt, inside and out. Now paprika . . .”

If you’d rather take a less literal approach, you can write a recipe for romance, disaster, enlightenment, or whatever appeals to you.

  1. Go back. One of my favorite writing prompts is called “Where I Come From.” I ask students to write about what music is playing, what the weather is, what’s cooking on the stove, what is hanging on the wall, what is growing outside. I ask them to include a physical landmark and the color yellow. “Where I Come From” can be literal or metaphorical.
  2. Give thanks. Write about the gift that changed your life. It can be large or small. You may find, as I have, that it isn’t necessarily about the actual object, but message behind it. The gift that changed my life was a toy typewriter, which I received for Christmas present when I was ten years old. Even though it was a toy, the message was real. My parents believed in my dream.
  3. Write on. What’s more inspiring than words themselves? Here’s an A to Z list of interesting words to explore. Some of them are begging to be put together—like cherish and perish, akimbo and bamboozle, nix and tryst. Challenge yourself to use at least 12 of these words in a poem or prose piece. Hopefully the result will be iridescent!
  • akimbo
  • bamboozle
  • cherish
  • diaphanous
  • elixir
  • fracas
  • gossamer
  • halcyon
  • iridescent
  • jubilee
  • kvetch
  • lullaby
  • miasma
  • nix
  • oomph
  • perish
  • quicksilver
  • razzmatazz
  • silhouette
  • tryst
  • umpteen
  • velvet
  • woebegone
  • xenon
  • zeitgeist

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