Up until today I've been kind of living under the delusion that it's still summer and a bajillion and a half degrees outside. But it's actually cold--which means fingerless gloves and boots! AND, it also means that this semester is 1/3 of the way over! My students have already turned in their first writing portfolios and papers.
Part of the portfolio I assign includes a written reaction to their writing over the course of the semester so far. And many of my students commented on the fact that I make them write everyday in class.
Being in my class means you are going to write. And so to get everyone writing I usually have them start by writing in a journal--nonstop--for an entire minute without a topic. If they have no idea what to write, I tell them to write, "I have no idea what to write" over and over again until they have something to write. Then I usually follow with a 5-10 minute --nonstop--write that has a topic.
Many of the students thought that though they couldn't understand why in the world I'd ask them to do something so crazy, they thought their writing was improving, because...well, they were writing.
Only one student thought herself such a great writer already that these exercises weren't helping.
Anyway--all of this got me thinking... I responded that to be a great writer, you have to write, you have to practice and sometimes you have to return to basics. Even master writers have to practice their craft on a regular basis, just the same as a ballet dancer has to warm up everyday and a singer has to go through the basic notes before she can hit the high ones. Writing is a craft that deserves every second of practice one can devote to it. And the more you practice something, the better you get at it--no matter where you're starting, if you keep at something you are bound to improve.
BUT, sometimes it's good to shake things up. Especially if you've been writing seriously for the last 5 years. So, what I'm wondering is, what are your favorite writing exercises? What do you guys do to practice your craft or get ideas going?
I'd love to hear and try some new exercises out, or maybe your exercise will give someone else an idea.