[Spencer from yolk, a Montreal-based digital literary magazine gives us his tips and tricks on how to write creatively in a number of genres.]
Now proves to be a difficult time for many of us stuck at home.
With the measures of social distancing in place, there is an insatiable hunger for movies to watch, books to read, and things to do in general that will keep us from going absolutely stir crazy.
Our day-to-day lives have been drastically altered, but what are some
ways to feel productive from the confinements of our homes?
Maison d’Étude is passionate about learning in fun and new ways, and now seems a better time than ever to be challenging our brains to think outside the box.
As the non-fiction editor of yolk, a Montreal-based literary magazine on a mission to create an artistic community of readers and writers, I present to you a list of writing exercises that our team uses to get our creative juices flowing and to train our minds to operate in new and interesting ways.
So, if you’re sitting at a table and trying to find something to inspire and challenge yourself, read this list and write, write, write away!
For this one, the task is simple: Open a book, flip to a random page, and write down the first sentence you see. Next, set a timer for 15 minutes and begin writing! The point of this exercise is simply to not take your pen off of the paper, just see where your ideas go and get lost in your own head for a bit. This is one of the world’s most popular writing exercises, and some writers even keep a little notebook specifically for automatic writing.
Here is an exercise which is meant to work your visual mind along with your
narrative skills. Find an interesting picture (on the internet, in a magazine, etc.) and start thinking about how it could be adapted into a story. If there are people in the picture, what are their faces telling you? If the picture is of a scene, is it the beginning of a larger-than-life event? The aftermath? Once you feel confident you can formulate some sort of story, begin writing, always returning back to your picture for inspiration.
Dream Interview Are you interested in conducting interviews and looking for a way to practice? Have you ever thought about what you would say if you found yourself in the same room as your biggest idol? In this exercise, think of somebody you would love to interview, and jot down a list of questions. This person could be an actor, a musician, a historical figure, and so on... it does not matter who you choose, but the amount of research you do to base your questions off of. Also, when thinking of your questions, get creative with it! For many people, a question like “What inspires you?” is something they have been asked on multiple occasions. In other words, the more unique your questions are, the more engaging your interview is bound to become.
Same but Different This is an exercise which will allow you to try and mesh-out the journalistic details of an event, and then add your own creative twist. Think of an event which you recently tuned-in to, like a concert or art exhibition, or even a video livestream, and try to recall all the details of the event. Once you’ve written down everything that you know actually happened, try to think of things that didn’t happen. Did aliens invade a dance performance? Were there zombies at the last concert you attended? The choice is yours, and blending fact with fiction is bound to produce some interesting results.
Originally brought to world recognition by the writer William S. Burroughs, this
experimental exercise mixes visual art, poetry, and outright weirdness. The task is easy: Find scissors, glue, and a book or a magazine, rip out pages at random, and splice images, words and sentences together to create your own original poems and collages. The results of this exercise are always bizarre, and oftentimes beautiful. Much like the automatic writing books I mentioned earlier, many
writers and artists create scrapbooks specifically for the cut-up method, and fill them with their surreal creations.
In this wonderfully disorienting exercise, the goal is to blend sensory experiences to create vivid and descriptive poems. Listen to a song and start writing about it, without ever alluding to its sound. What’s this song’s texture? Is it smooth, or rough? What colour is it? What does it smell like, and what does its taste remind you of? This writing exercise is especially fun to do with friends, because you can listen to the same song, write, and then compare the differences and similarities between your final products.
Creative writing exercises are like snowflakes: No two are alike.
If you want to have a better idea at how to express your creativity in the best way you can, try all the exercises above to find out which one works best for you. Just like anything else, getting good at writing takes time, care and practice. Find the exercises and ideas that keep you excited, and whatever you do, don’t stop writing.
You can learn more about Spencer and his writing projects on his Instagram profile.
To discover more about yolk and what they've been up to, check out their articles page.