“There are those who have to exercise their little grey cells.”
I perform weight bearing, muscle building, aerobic, balance, and flexibility exercises every morning for my physical health. It makes sense to me to engage in writing exercises for my literary health. Using the concept of physical exercises, I have identified different types of writing exercises. Each exercise is linked to a key cognitive strategy described by David T. Conley in his book College and Career Ready
Weight bearing: Force your brain to work against conventional thinking, which helps strengthen your framework.
Key Cognitive Strategy: Research
Muscle building: Use writing prompts to develop skill working within fixed parameters.
Key Cognitive Strategy: Precision and Accuracy
Aerobic: Improve your rhetorical skills by writing from an empathetic or sympathetic perspective.
Key Cognitive Strategy: Interpretation
Balance: Improve you dialectics by arguing from both sides of an issue in order to reveal or hide the truth.
Key Cognitive Strategy: Communication
Flexibility: Stretch your imagination to keep your creativity limber.
Key Cognitive Strategy: Problem Formulation
Sometimes my students would complain about mathematics; they would argue that they shouldn’t have to study math because they will never use it in real life.
“What good is math anyway?” they would say.
My response was always the same. I would point out that athletes that play football, soccer, basketball, or baseball never lift weights in competition, yet they all do weight training as part of their practice routine.
“Take football, for example,” I would say. “Football players lift weights every day in practice. Yet during a game you never see a player stop, lie down on the grass, and lift weights. Instead, they use the muscles they develop by weightlifting to more effectively run, block, tackle, and pass. In the same way, mathematics strengthens areas of the brain that other disciplines do not.”
In my opinion, it’s the same with writing exercises; they improve the overall writing process. They may not be explicitly used in my novel or on my blog, but they strengthen my ability to write. Most of the writing exercises I use are adapted from strategies I used when I taught mathematics.
· Objects in a Bag
· Social Compact
· Gestalt Inquiry
· Soup to Nuts
· Color ~ Animal ~ Water Metaphors
· Random Adjective ~ Noun
· Random Adverb ~ Verb
· Featured Author’s
· Math investigations ~ Experiments
· Enneagram Perspective ~ Motivation
· If I Ran the Zoo
· Map of the Journey
For example, this article is the result of an exercise I call “Objects in a Bag.”
Another reason I practice writing exercises is to pre-edit my thinking. Whenever I dive into writing, I am subject to snark attacks. The writing exercises help exorcise that particular demon. Although I am happy to share the exercises I use, I recommend that each writer compile his or her own list of writing exercises and then practice, practice, practice.