Early this New Year’s morning, I had a dream of teaching a creative writing class in an apartment. All my students showed up gradually, starting at 1:00 a.m., since the class time hadn’t been announced. I had them all do calisthenics to warm up and dreamt up several ideas for class. I probably won’t make all my creative writing students do stretches before class next semester, but this dream did lead me to make up a resolution for the blog this year — write more (obviously) and include more writing exercises. So here is a first one…
Take a Hike
Go for a walk of at least 10 minutes. Don’t avoid the weather (though it’s all right to use an umbrella, raincoat, parka, sunscreen, etc.) On your walk consider an idea for writing. The idea does not have to come from the walk, though it may. You might start out with an idea in mind or look for one during your walk. Let the experience of the walk influence your thinking. Allow the weather to influence the mood or a random event (traffic, animal sighting, encounter with a person, etc.) to enter the scene you are working on. Either bring a small notebook with you and write down your ideas at one or more stopping points in the walk or immediately upon returning from the walk, sit down and work at least 15 minutes on a draft.
This kind of exercise goes back at least as far as Wordsworth’s idea of emotion recollected in tranquility. Goethe was also well known for taking long walks when writing, and Wallace Stevens said he composed most of his poems while walking to and from the office in Hartford Connecticut. Many poets have credited the rhythm of walking with the cadence in their poems, and it is often a good idea to introduce reality through random elements in a creative work.