24 of the Best Writing Exercises to Become a Better Writer
The best writing exercises bring out our latent creativity. Especially if you ever feel stuck or blocked, making creative writing exercises part of your daily writing practice can be a great way to both hone your skills and explore new frontiers in your writing. Whether you’re a poet, essayist, storyteller, or genre-bending author, these free writing exercises will jumpstart your creative juices and improve your writing abilities.
24 of the Best Free Writing Exercises to Try Out Today
The best creative writing exercises will push you out of your comfort zone and get you to experiment with words. Language is your sandbox, so let’s build some sand castles with these exercises and writing prompts.
Write With Limitations
The English language is huge, complicated, and—quite frankly—chaotic. Writing with self-imposed limitations can help you create novel and inventive pieces.
What does “limitations” mean in this context? Basically, force yourself not to use certain words, descriptions, or figures of speech. Some writing exercises using limitations include the following:
- Write without using adverbs or adjectives.
- Write without using the passive voice – no “being verbs” whatsoever. (Also called “E-Prime” writing.)
- Write a story without using a common letter – just like Ernest Vincent Wright did .
- Write a poem where each line has six words.
- Write without using any pronouns.
Among exercises to improve writing skills, writing with limitations has the clearest benefits. This practice challenges your brain to think about language productively. Additionally, these limitations force you to use unconventional language – which, in turn, makes you write with lucidity, avidity, and invention.
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Freewriting & Stream of Consciousness
What do you do when the words just don’t come out? How can you write better if you can’t seem to write at all? One of the best poetry exercises, as well as writing exercises in general, is to start your day by freewriting.
Freewriting, also known as “stream of consciousness writing,” involves writing your thoughts down the moment they come. There’s no filtering what you write, and no controlling what you think: topicality, style, and continuity are wholly unnecessary in the freewriting process. While the idea of freewriting seems easy, it’s much harder than you think – examining your thoughts without controlling them takes a while to master, and the impulse to control what you write isn’t easy to tame. Try these exercises to master the skill:
- Do a timed freewrite. Start with five minutes.
- Freewrite until you fill up the entirety of something – an envelope, a receipt, a postcard, etc.
- Freewrite after meditating.
- Freewrite off of the first word of today’s newspaper.
Among daily writing exercises, freewriting is one of the best writing exercises. Poets can use freewritten material as inspiration for their poetry. Prose writers can also find inspiration for future stories from the depths of their consciousnesses. Start your writing day with freewriting, and watch your creativity blossom.
Copy What You Read
Plagiarism is still off the table; however, you can learn a lot by paying attention to how other people write. This is what we call “reading like a writer.”
Reading like a writer means paying attention to the craft elements that make an excellent piece of literature work. Good writing requires different writing styles, figurative language, story structures, and/or poetry forms, as well as key word choice.
When you notice these craft elements, you can go ahead and emulate them in your own work. As a fiction writer, you might be drawn to the way Haruki Murakami weaves folklore into his stories, and decide to write a story like that yourself. Or, as a poet, you might be inspired by Terrance Hayes’ Golden Shovel form—enough so that you write a Golden Shovel yourself.
- Read a favorite poem, and write your own poem in the same poetic form.
- Blackout poetry: take another poem, cross out words you don’t want to use, circle words you do, and write a poem based on the circled words.
- Copy a single sentence from a favorite novel, and write a short-short story with it.
Among free writing exercises, this is a great way to learn from the best. The best kinds of exercises to improve writing skills involve building upon the current canon of works—as Isaac Newton said, you achieve something great by “standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Write From Different Perspectives
The conventional advice given to writers is to “write what you know.” We couldn’t disagree with that statement more. The best creative works force both the writer and the reader to consider new perspectives and learn something new; writing from a new point-of-view makes for a great exercise in expanding your creative limits.
Try these ideas as daily writing exercises:
- Write a story with the same plot, but with two or more perspectives. For example, you could write a lover’s quarrel from two different view points.
- Write from the point-of-view of a famous historical figure.
- Write a story or poem from the perspective of an object: a statue, a doll, a roomba, etc.
- Write from the perspective of a person you dislike.
While playing with perspective makes for a great fiction writing exercise , poets and essayists can do this too. Patricia Smith’s poem “Skinhead,” for example, is a persona piece written from the perspective of a white nationalist, but the poem clearly condemns the speaker’s beliefs.
Thus, perspective writing also works as a poetry exercise and an essay writing practice exercise . If you’re stuck in your own head, try writing in someone else’s!
Write Metaphor Lists
All creative writers need figurative language. While metaphors, similes, and synecdoches are more prominent in poetry, prose writers need the power of metaphor to truly engross their reader. Among both exercises to improve writing skills and fun writing exercises for adults, writing metaphor lists is one of the best writing exercises out there.
A metaphor list is simple. On a notebook, create two columns. In one column, write down only concrete nouns. Things like a pillow, a tree, a cat, a cloud, and anything that can be perceived with one of the five senses.
In the other list, write down only abstract ideas. Things like love, hate, war, peace, justice, closure, and reconciliation—anything that is conceptual and cannot be directly perceived.
Now, choose a random noun and a random concept, and create a metaphor or simile with them. Delve into the metaphor and explain the comparison. For example, you might say “Love is like a pillow—it can comfort, or it can smother.”
Once you’ve mastered the metaphor list, you can try the following ideas to challenge yourself:
- Create a coherent poem out of your metaphor list.
- Turn your metaphor list into a short story.
- Try making lists with a different figurative language device, such as personification, pathetic fallacy, or metonymy.
Any free creative writing exercise that focuses on figurative language can aid your writing immensely, as it helps writers add insight and emotionality to their work. This is an especially great creative writing exercise for beginners as they learn the elements of style and language.
Of course, the best way to improve your creative writing skills is simply to write every day. Keeping a daily journal is a great way to exercise your writing mind. By sitting down with your personal observations and writing without an agenda or audience, a daily writing practice remains one of the best writing exercises , regardless of your genre or level of expertise.
Consider these ideas for your daily journal:
- Track your mood and emotions throughout the day. Write those emotions in metaphor—avoid commonplace adjectives and nouns.
- Write about your day from the second- or third-person.
- Journal your day in verse. Use stanzas, line breaks, and figurative language.
- Write about your day backwards.
- Write about your day using Freytag’s pyramid. Build up to a meaningful climax, even if nothing significant seemed to happen today.
Writing Exercises: Have Fun with Them!
Many of these writing exercises might feel challenging at first—and that’s a good thing! You will unlock new ideas and writing strengths by struggling through these creative challenges. The main point is to have fun with them and use them to explore within your writing, without indulging too many monologues from your inner critic.
Are you looking for more exercises to improve your writing skills? Our instructors can offer prompts, illuminating lectures, one-to-one feedback, and more to help you improve your craft. Check out our upcoming creative writing courses, and let’s put these skills to practice.
Thank you for this. I’ve been stuck for months—more than that, actually, and you’d think that a pandemic stay-at-home would be the perfect time to do some writing. But no. I’m as stuck as ever. In fact, the only time I seem able to write consistently and well is when I’m taking one of your classes! I’m still saving my pennies, but these exercises will hopefully get me writing in the meantime. Thanks again!
Hi Kathy, I’m glad to hear some of these tips might spark your creativity 🙂 I feel the same way, I was hoping the stay-at-home order might spark some creativity, but we shouldn’t push ourselves too hard – especially in the midst of a crisis.
The best part about writing: all you have to do is try, and you’ve already succeeded. Good luck on your writing endeavors!
Bravo….!What a great piece!
Honestly I learnt a lot here!
I picked interest in poetry just a week ago after reading a beautiful piece which captivated my mind into the world of writing. I’d love to write great poems but I don’t know anything about poetry, I need a coach, a motivator and an inspiration to be able to do this. This piece really helped me but I will appreciate some more tips and help from you or anyone else willing to help, I am really fervid about this.
Thanks for your comment! I’m so excited for you to start your journey with poetry. We have more advice for poetry writing at the articles under this link: https://writers.com/category/poetry
Additionally, you might be interested in two of our upcoming poetry courses: Poetry Workshop and How to Craft a Poem.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks, and happy writing!
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