Here’s a good exercise to try if you’re stuck, blocked or ready to start a new piece but don’t know what to write:
Take a walk, and bring a notebook. Jot down things you see, hear, smell, feel, touch and experience. Use all your senses.
- bits of conversation—not just the words but also the tone of the language and the postures of the speakers
- neighborhood signs—their messages and their visual style
- changing cloud formations and the things they bring to mind for you
- the exact color of the sky
- a crying or laughing baby—how it sounds and how it makes you feel
- the scent, texture and color of blooming flowers
- dogs checking each other out or chasing squirrels
- traffic—the sound, smell and look of it
- the sights, sounds and smells of trees you encounter
- the color and texture of the hair of anyone you pass
- the items people are holding or carrying
These are just a few ideas—be sure to include everything that catches your attention. And pay attention to everything around you as you walk.
Then find a place to sit such as a park bench, cafe, picnic table, the ground, your car … whatever works for you.
Now combine several of the sensory images you’ve gathered and use them to create a story, essay, poem or any other piece of writing. Play around with the images and try different things, just as you would if you were making a collage. If one combination doesn’t work, try something else. Write something silly or dark or absurd or uncharacteristic of you. Have fun as you fit the puzzle pieces together in different ways.
I like this exercise because it combines the physical activity of walking with the mental and emotional experience of collecting bits of what you experience. It gets you away from staring at a blank piece of paper. And combining things in new ways always engages the muse.
Let me know how you like this exercise, or share your creations!
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