10 Topics for Writing Practice

books on Victorian mahogoney dressing table

Sometimes we sit at our desks to write and can’t think of anything to write about.  We face the blank page.  We sit there until blood pours from our foreheads, as one famous author was heard to say.

 

Making a list can be good.  It makes you start noticing material for writing in your daily life, and your writing comes out of a relationship with your life in all its richness.

 

 

10 ideas for writing practice:

  1. Begin with “I don’t remember”. If you get stumped, just repeat the words “I don’t remember” on the page again and keep going.
  2. Tell about sound as it arises. Be aware of sounds from all directions as they arise:  sounds near, sounds far, sounds in front, behind, to the side, above or below.  Notice any spaces between sounds.
  3. Tell me about last evening. Dinner, sitting on the couch, preparing for bed.  Be as detailed as you can.  Take your time to locate the specifics and relive your evening on the page.
  4. Tell me what boredom feels like.
  5. See in your mind a place you’ve always loved. Visualise the colours, the sounds, the smells, the tastes.
  6. Write about “saying goodbye”. Tackle it any way you like.  Write about your marriage breakup, leaving home, the death of a loved one.
  7. What was your first job?
  8. Write about the most scared you’ve ever been.
  9. Write in cafes. Write what is going on around you.
  10. Describe a parent or a child.

Some people have a jar full of words written on pieces of paper and select one piece of paper at random each day and write from that.  Others use a line of a poem to start them off.  Then every time they get stuck they rewrite that line and keep going.

Be honest.  Cut through the crap and get to the real heart of things.

Zen Buddhist, psychotherapist, writer and teacher, Gail Sher in her book One Continuous Mistake says the solution for her came via haiku (short unrhymed Japanese poems capturing the essence of a moment).

 “For several years I wrote one haiku a day and then spent hours polishing those I had written on previous days.  This tiny step proved increasingly satisfying,” Gail Sher.

She said it gradually dawned on her that it was not the haiku but the “one per day.”  Without even knowing it, she had developed a “practice.”  Every day, no matter what, she wrote one haiku.  In her mind she became the person who writes “a haiku a day.”  And that was the beginning of knowing who she was.

Gail Sher suggests writing on the same subject every day for two weeks.

“Revisiting the same subject day after day will force you to exhaust stale, inauthentic, spurious thought patterns and dare you to enter places of subtler, more ‘fringe’ knowing,” Gail Sher.

She writes in One Continuous Mistake that the Four Noble Truths for writers are:

  1. Writers write.
  2. Writing is a process.
  3. You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.
  4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write.

So start coming up with your own list of ideas for practice writing.  Life happening around us is good grist-for-the-mill.

Copyright © 2016 Libby Sommer

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10 thoughts on “10 Topics for Writing Practice

  1. Hi Libby, I forgot to thank you for your feedback on my last blog. How are you? Has your life changed much since your launch? Some of our other friends from U.S.A are here now which is lovely and we’ll do Seder with them. Actually, we’re off to Israel on Thursday to see some family. Speak soon, Judi 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    1. hi Judi, am back to the blank page working away on a new longer piece of fiction. have had two short stories accepted for Quadrant this year and one of my poems will be published in a Social Justice Anthology published by Ginninderra Press. so it’s all good. but basically no change since launch. life continues as before. back to the desk. hope all goes well in Israel. look forward to the pics. Libby x

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  2. This is helpful. I might steal some of these ideas to inspire some of my fellow writers in the writing group that I convene at Waverley Library. Thanks Libby. Great.

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  3. Hi Libby! I recently began a daily writing habit where I time myself for 10 minutes and let all the ideas flow. At first I thought I would not be able to write anything, but after a couple of sentences, I was surprised to find myself typing away even after the last minute. As I read through what I wrote, I have the urge to edit and erase some parts but I also love how raw and free the ideas are. It’s like building a mine for future ideas to write about. But how do we really go about it? Do we leave it in that state, raw and unedited? Or do we go back and fix it up to become post worthy? 🙂

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    1. that’s wonderful news that you’ve begun a daily writing habit and are exercising the writing muscle. thanks so much for letting me know that you are experiencing how alive and fresh the writing is when it’s spontaneous. i think it’s a good idea to go back and check that you are happy with the piece of writing before ‘putting it out there’. but, who knows, a good piece of writing may have come out fully formed 🙂

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      1. Thank you! It’s actually a common thing when I read about writing tips and advice, also mentioned in blogging 101 fundamentals here in WP. I’m not really confident that I could write spontaneously and put it out there fully formed, but who knows one day. 🙂 For now, it’s a great thing for the mind.

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      2. exactly. the thing is, writing is rewriting. so putting stuff out there fully formed is usually an unrealistic expectation. it’s great that you now have a regular writing practice. that’s the hardest part of the whole process. 🙂

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