A letter from a cynic about Writing Exercises…

“Writing Exercises to Get You Moving!” When I read these kinds of blog headlines, I do get moving…to another article or another blog. I’m already aware that I’ve lost half of the readers this post might have had, if only I had started it another way.

I simply don’t want to hear it anymore. I remember college, the chore of the writing exercise. Then, later in life, I remember all the time wasted with books aimed at teaching the art of writing better through creative activities. And now, with the Internet as a platform for the skilled and unskilled alike, so much of what I read about writing exercises is fodder—written by people who can’t seem to earn a living with literature, but still feel they can advise others. Too harsh? Maybe, but I don’t want my writing advice from a professional educator, waitress, or musician—at least not at this point in my career. I want writing advice from professional writers, editors, and publishers — people who demonstrate their knowledge by earning a living with literature — it’s not their hobby, it’s their livelihood. These are the artisans from whom I want to learn the craft.

Fighting words? Not really. I freely admit that many other people have good things to offer. When it comes to articles about writing exercises, perhaps I’m lazy and cynical. I don’t want to decide whose voice is credible. I’m frustrated by most blog posts about writing exercises because so many of them smack of a motivational speaker that lives in a van down by the river. That said, their cliché slogans have a certain kind of truth, hence the appeal that made certain ideas cliché – “Just write something, get the pen moving, don’t overthink it, oil the wheels, spark your creativity….” Yes, obviously, there is truth there — a kind of mantra for the writer – but like anything that’s said too often, it’s little more than background noise, undeniably present, yet widely ignored.

My thoughts about writing exercises? Not everyone needs a personal trainer. If exercises help you, then incorporate them into your routine. Enough said. And if you are writing beyond college, or at least regularly, then you probably already know all you need to know about writing exercises – you can ignore articles about them in the future. For those people who don’t like exercises, you’re not wrong.

I reluctantly admit that this post is cynical fodder, but since you committed to reading this far, I’ll push this advice on you, from someone who does make a living with literature; keep writing. Just keep writing. That’s all. Trust me. You’ll get better with or without writing exercises. Fail better until you stop failing. Stop looking for advice about writing exercises. Go write something.