A new week and another new exercise to tax our collective imaginations! Each Saturday, whoever has the chair sets the group a writing task, to be completed by the following Saturday. These exercises may require that at some point in the piece, a particular word must feature, such as precious. Or, it may be that the piece must begin with a particular phrase, such as, Jack raised his rifle and pointed it towards the cigarette glow, or even end with one: a cold shiver ran down his spine. But these are not the only possibilities and there are plenty of books available which have short exercises to stimulate creativity.
The word count may vary from one hundred to two hundred words and all pieces are read out at the beginning of the morning and critiqued. The word count really focuses the mind, so that every word counts: a good discipline for every writer. Anyone who lets their pen run away with them, has to have the work critiqued as their main piece, which isn’t good news as you then have to make a choice as to which you want critiqued more : that or your main piece. It also implies a certain level of trust and integrity: not saying, “Oh, I’ve done one hundred and fifty five words,” when the word count is closer to three hundred!
We all have our preferred genres: science fiction; romance; light comedy; dark romance; general non- fiction and military memoire. However, these little exercises have encouraged members to step outside their comfort zones and write pieces they previously might never have considered: sharp pieces of flash fiction good enough to win competitions; longer short stories submitted for publication in magazines.
From my own point of view, there is no doubt that these exercises have helped me to explore ideas and develop as a writer. Much to my surprise, they have given birth to an alter ego, Vera, a northern woman of a certain age and disposition. Whilst I’m doing the housework, my mind disengaged, somewhere in there lurks the task of the week, floating around, working its magic in my subconscious, until Vera springs forth with yet more ideas on life.
In fact, much of my work of late has had its genesis in these little exercises conscientiously completed to meet deadlines. Being in a group also helps as there is that little added pressure of doing something that others think is original, amusing, sharp, and well plotted. However, not all of us have the time or opportunity to join a writing group, but that’s no reason why you can’t exercise those writing muscles by trying to write short pieces based on words plucked at random from a dictionary. Go on. Do it. You might surprise yourself.