Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stretching The Imagination

Probably by now plenty of you have already created your new years resolutions' for 2011 and are currently striving to achieve those goals, and I'm sure that at least one of these resolutions have to do with getting in shape - such as losing a certain amount of pounds by a certain date, or running laps around the block three times a week. Working out is a great way to start out the new year, especially when you keep it up and don't slack in your exercise routines. I often find myself not trying as hard as I should in working out, such as skipping the warm-up just because I want to get the exercise over with as quick as possible. However, the warm-up is just as important as the exercise itself, and should never be skipped.

Writing can many times feel like a work out routine for me. There are goals that must be met, and I have to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to writing. If I do, I will eventually become stronger and it will become easier for me to write. And, likewise with working-out, I tend to skip the part that warms up my writing muscles - the part that is so necessary. Just as stretching before exercising can help get your heart pumping, stretching your imagination before writing can help get your creative juices flowing. Here are a few "warm-up" exercises that I've found very helpful:

  • Writing prompts. There are many of these you can find on various websites, such as this one. Challenge yourself. Do the one that seems to stretch your imagination to it's limit.
  • Write a scene based on a picture. Photography has always been a big inspiration for my writing. You can search images on websites such as Flickr, Photobucket, and even Tumblr. I've written a six-page short story before, all based on one photograph. Ask yourself questions such as "how did the person in the photograph end up there?" or "who are the people at this location, and why are they there?" If there is a person/people in the picture, observe their facial expressions. Write the scene based on that mood.
  • Take a song and write a scene from that. I love doing this. It helps me to put myself in someone else's shoes and search the meaning behind the lyrics a bit further, thinking about what type of person would feel this way and why.
  • Read books. Study the author's writing. Dissect the books that you read. Study them like a text-book, highlighting the parts that stand out to you the most. As writers, we have to be constantly reading others' work. Have you ever heard of a musician or singer who doesn't listen to anyone's music except their own?
  • Read self-help books on writing. My personal favorite is "A Novel Idea", because it is written specifically for Christian fiction authors, explaining the ministry of writing and how we can learn to write for the Lord. "Revision & Self-Editing" by James Scott Bell and "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" are also very helpful books that explain the craft and techniques of writing.
  • Write a diary entry from one of your character's point of view, or make up another character and write from their perspective. This is always a great way to get outside of our own head and into the heads of others.
  • Think of story ideas based off a certain scripture. I find reading Bible verses very inspiring - not just for my spiritual journey, but for my writing journey as well. It is possible to tie a scripture into a story idea without ever mentioning it in the book itself. The Bible is full of interesting story ideas. All we've got to do as writers is dig them out.
  • Read news stories, and ask "what if?" questions. "What if" the guys who started the high school shooting were teens who wouldn't normally do something like this, but were forced to or else their families lives would be at stake because of a threat?
  • Write a scene from one of your favorite memories. This could be a memory as a kid, teen, or a recent memory. Live life, then use life.

The more you stretch your imagination, the more flexible it will become. Make sure to always set aside time before your writing routine to warm-up. That way, when you do begin to write, your voice will come across as strong, as well as your writing "muscles". This may help your thoughts to become more clear also, allowing yourself to meet your goal faster than you originally had planned.

Oh, don't forget to always keep a full mug of coffee or tea nearby before beginning your daily writing work-out routine. =)

There are several other ways you could "stretch your imagination". What are some other writing warm-ups that I didn't mention?
Do you often skip this part of writing?
Can you tell a difference when you do this?


  1. This is such a great post! Wow, it's just what a friend of mine and I are needing right now. :) Thanks for the great ideas, Tessa!

  2. Our writer's group just suggested we use prompts to encourage us when we are blocked. Good ideas! :O)

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  4. Margaret: You're welcome! Thanks for commenting!

    Diane: I definitely think doing writing prompts help when you can't think of any words to say. Not to mention it's a great way to "think outside the box". =)

  5. Nice post, Tessa!

    One of my other pet exercises is writing a short story or scene of my character as a little kid. I get a kick out of that ;D

  6. Cool post! :)

    When I read I really pay attention to how other authors write. I think the diary entry idea is really cool! I might just do that. :)


  7. Great tips Tessa. I wrote about writing prompts on my last post, and will be trying this 'warm up' technique (again) this month. I'm also reading a writing book on inspiration rather than technique to help get creative.

  8. Ellyn: Great idea! My protagonist's childhood is a very important factor of why she became who she is now. I'll have to keep that exercise in mind next time I do my writing stretches. =)

    Katie: Thanks! Yeah, it helps a lot to ready slowly and try to figure out the technique of other authors. And diary entries are really fun to do, even if you aren't "stretching".

    Lynn: What book is it? I'd love to check it out. I think that inspiration is just as important as the craft of writing itself. =) Thanks for commenting!

  9. Those are great ideas! I've always read another author's books to study their writing style, not really consciously, but now that I think about it, I totally do that :) and I don't know if you're notified of this at all, but I replied to your comments on my blog on my blog :) if that made sense :)


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