5 Writing Exercises That Will Make You More Creative

Writing is serious business, full of mental anguish, studious contemplation, philosophical brooding, and bullshit. Listen: If your every literary moment is spent agonizing unhappily over your creation -- just quit. If you're going to be unhappy with your pastimes anyway, take up carpentry. Even a shitty, crooked spice rack will keep the oregano from cluttering up the cabinets. If you're writing, you should have the decency to enjoy it. Remember: All you're doing is transcribing imagination time. Don't take it too seriously. Writing is a game, and if you're stuck on a level, the solution isn't to grind through it -- just cheat. Here are a few simple cheat codes to get you started, and maybe unfuck your creativity love enough for you to finish that masterwork about a boy and his homosexual robot dog. And if you try any of these, feel free to post the results in the comments. Because that's the other important aspect of being a writer: the shameless attention whoring.

#5. Brutally End Your Story

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Having trouble starting your piece?


Why not end it instead? 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. Some writers use the "last line" trick -- where they just write the very last line of the story and then try to get there. I'm advocating for the full finale. Write the last two pages. Cut into the action in the middle of a sentence -- or the middle of an explosion -- and see where it takes you. You don't have to worry about quality or integrity or any of that crap, because the story you're ending never even existed. This exercise is a fine way to start a work you intend to keep. Oh, you won't keep what you write while playing this game: You'll probably rewrite every single word of this trite rubbish while sobbing in angry shame, but you might figure out an overall goal. That's just as important. The biggest danger, especially in longer works, is getting lost along the way. Even if you never pick up this particular story again, the exercise at least lets you practice what to do when you reach that goal so you don't pull up to your dramatic finale with a blank look on your face and motion for all the action to stop while you read the instruction manual.

An Example:

-foot broke through the Papier's skull with a sound like eggshells cracking.

"I told you it would come to this," I informed the shattered paper man. He looked at me with flat painted eyes.

"What sin did we commit?" the Papier asked me, not understanding.

"Worship of false idols," I said.

I motioned to the torn and shredded husks all around us.

"I didn't worship them..."

"No, that was their sin. Yours was pride."

"I just didn't want to be alone anymore," he said, "They were my brothers."

"They were dolls," I corrected, "and not very good ones. Their limbs were malformed. Their brains were feeble. You were the best of them. That's why I saved you for last, old friend."

I bent, pulled a pair of faded pink safety scissors from my pocket and began to cut. I started on the mouth, so I wouldn't have to hear him scream.

"How's your project coming, Billy? Will you be finished before nap time?" Mrs. Davis asked me, her oblivious eyes carefully selecting the reality she allows herself to see.

"It's almost done, Mrs. Davis," I answered. "It's almost over now."

#4. Drive Your Story Insane

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Make a throwaway copy of whatever you're working on, pick a point at complete random, and, purely as a practice exercise -- with no thought for cohesiveness or quality -- introduce something totally unexpected. If you're writing something ridiculous and fun, have your wackiest character get a call telling them they have terminal stomach cancer. If you're writing a serious literary drama about a woman struggling to deal with emotional commitment, have a troop of superpowered luchadores bust out of a wedding cake. Figure out how your characters would respond to utter madness and desolation. Try (and, almost certainly, desperately fail) to make these random events jive with your world and existing plot. You're not keeping the end result. It doesn't count, so do whatever you want. As a writer, never forget that you're Bill Murray on Groundhog Day. You know everything and can do whatever you want, without consequence. You are the undisputed master of this plane of existence. The words aren't writing you -- you're a fucking literary god. Be a bad one for a page or two. You're Gozer the Gozerian, and these petty mortals dare defy you? Fuck 'em. Warp reality, completely screw the whole world, damage your character's minds and send them reeling into psych wards with acute PTSD from the experience. Then, when you're finished, close your word processor and go back to the real story. It will help, in the long run. You just never know the measure of a woman until you've seen how she takes an atomic suplex on her wedding day.

An Example:

"Do you solemnly swear to love and obey-"

"Did somebody say 'ole'?!" A muffled voice sounded, impossibly, from inside my wedding cake.

"No," Mark started, scanning for the source, "no they actually didn-"

He cut off when a fist-size clump of frosting caught him in the bridge of the nose. I didn't even see the chaos; I was too close to the cakesplosion epicenter. There was a hot, wet thump, and then I was upside down on a church pew. I was still spitting chunks of vanilla lavender when the first dropkick caught me. I was still spitting teeth when the bright green bootprints on my chest began to burn.

#3. Abandon Your Story

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Full disclosure: This whole idea was inspired by a post I wrote last week, and this entire entry is pulled from my own site, because I'm a lazy bastard. But in my defense, I only do it because I want to, because I can, and because nobody can stop me.

I'm constantly mentally writing the beginnings of stories. Beginnings that I have no intention of ever expanding on, either because the ideas peter out, the concept doesn't interest me enough to devote more time to it, or because the premise is just laughably bad. It doesn't matter, really: It's fun to write the first paragraph of a huge work and then completely abandon it, mocking its potential and daring the muses to take a swing at you (they won't do it -- pussies). There was a proposed Cracked project a while back, where we were kicking around an idea for a series that was just overly explanatory theme songs to shows. We would film the opening credits, and maybe a second or two of the show itself as a button. But the meat of the content would just be the ridiculous opening sequences setting up this terrible show's premise in detail. The one I was going to pitch was called "So I Married a Corvette..." about a man whose wife is somehow turned into a sports car. Science, magic ... I didn't get far enough to sort out the details. The important thing was this guy's wife was a car, and maybe they fought crime and they certainly made a lot of terrible car puns like, "Sorry to cut in, but I really MUSTANGo," and "Could've had a V8!" (As a man is horribly crushed beneath an engine block.)

An Example:

We all have the devil inside of us. He takes many forms. For some folks he's a desire they can't put down. Lust, or greed, or envy. For others, he's an addiction. My daddy had two devils living in his guts: alcohol and gambling. They cost him everything -- his job, his family, his life. Me? I only got one devil to carry. His name is Larry. He's about 2 inches tall, and he lives in a hollowed-out space in my chest. Got a little armchair in there. Doesn't like visitors much, but he'll see you as long as you knock first. You wanna meet him?

... and that would be an instance of the "laughably bad" category. But that's the point: to start a story that you have no obligation to finish. Why does it matter if it was any good? It's going in the garbage one way or another. This is not a good exercise to start an important work; it's a good exercise to bleed the poison out before you begin actually writing.

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Robert Brockway

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