Simple Writing Exercises Guaranteed to Improve Writing Skills and Speed
Do you sometimes struggle with writer's block? Do you find it difficult to get started writing? Or perhaps halfway through a piece you seem to run out of ideas or struggle to finish? Fortunately, there are a couple of simple techniques that will help you not only beat writer's block, but improve your writing overall. Not only that, you'll find you write more often and get more enjoyment out of it.
There are many who write as a habit every day. It has been a natural inclination since we were young. For us, we developed some of the skills I'm about to share with you by default, before they were stripped away from us by various teachers and rules of writing.
There are others who enjoy writing very much, but it just isn't as free flowing or natural to them, probably because they are stuck in old mindsets and rigid structures. Regardless, whether you have written since you could hold a pen, or if you are new to writing and still finding your groove, these exercises will help you overcome some established norms that may be holding you back from reaching your full potential.
Why You Need Free Writing
Many people have been introduced to the idea of freewriting, but may not have been shown how it breaks down writing barriers and helps you produce the best work you are capable of. Give the following writing exercises a fair shot. They will drive you batty at first. You'll hate it and want to stop doing it, but persist! If you do these just a few times, you will find that you make amazing breakthroughs you never thought possible.
Most of us are unaware of just how much we restrict our natural writing flow. Are you a grammar Nazi? I sure am. Typos and spelling errors drive me nuts. In fact, they bother me so much; I tend to over-correct as I am writing. This is the absolute worst thing you can do when writing because it hinders both quality and speed.
Do you find the lessons you learned in school on structure are stuck in your brain? Every piece has an intro, the body, and then a conclusion that restates everything? If you ever want to be better than a mediocre writer you must undo the habits of self-correction, over structuring and censoring as you write! The goal of free writing is to write without restriction.
I included a screenshot example below of what free writing looks like. It's ugly, it will make your inner critic cringe and beg for mercy. You will find the hidden desire to reach through the screen and fix it. NO way you could ever publish that as is, but that's the point. Free writing gives you time to get the inner critic out of the way so that you can express your ideas without restraint. What happens after this is amazing.
The Benefits of Free writing
This is going to be harder than you think it is at first, because most of us are unaware of just how much we censor and edit as we write. It's what keeps good writers from becoming excellent writers, so keep an open mind and give it a try. The first thing you want to do is open a blank document (or pull out a sheet of paper if you prefer the old school style) Here is a free online stopwatch for your convenience.
Set a timer for five minutes and just write/type. You cannot stop, nor can you correct anything. Do not worry about punctuation, grammar, structure, spelling, typos, layout etc.
Don't try to stick to one subject or organize as you write, simply put thoughts on paper as they flow for the full five minutes. When the time is up reflect on how easy or hard this was. Put a notation under what you just created. If you have trouble starting; type the first idea in your head, even if it is about not knowing what to write.
Go and don't stop. Write the entire time, and do not look at what you have written until the timer goes off. Start with five minutes because more than that may result in a full blow inner critic panic attack.
Free Writing Exercise Two
For the next exercise you have to use a computer. Open a blank document and turn your screen off or if you are disciplined enough, close your eyes. No peeking! Now, not only can you not go back and correct, stop writing, or form structure; you also cannot see!
All joking aside, this exercise actually did give me anxiety the first time I did it. I was so nervous and then it occurred to me the reason was because when I was writing I was focused on others, not my own writing or ideas, but on how people will perceive what I am writing.
That was the light bulb that clicked and it helped me to overcome many obstacles. No one ever has to see your first draft of anything, except for here where I have actually shared what free writing looks like.*shudder*
Concern about how it will be received, corrections, order placement, and anything else that obstructs our creative flow should all be separate, and not a part of the writing exercise itself. Those are editing exercises, and when we edit while we write we sacrifice quality of ideas and expression.
Every day, engage in free writing activity. Increase the time and do not correct typos, structure, or otherwise self-edit as you write. In time, it will feel more natural, and it will not only improve your writing, it will make you a more prolific and solid writer and editor.
After you have practiced several times; go back through your writing exercises and cull good content and ideas. Use these for the next writing exercise which is mind mapping. This process helps you become more organized and to quickly outline ideas in ways that flow more smoothly.
How Mind Mapping Improves Writing Skills
A mind map is a great way to organize thoughts and ideas, including already established writing. You can use a large sheet of paper or a mind mapping software. Either way works great and I use both. I prefer the handwritten ones for things like vision boards or personal ideas, and the software version for writing and organizing articles and stories. Freemind provides a great free mind mapping software I use often for organizing ideas and projects, from web design to writing and even home improvement projects.
For this hub, I created a handwritten (I apologize) example you can view in the photo below. I started with the theme of this hub which is “improve writing”. From there I branched out into main points, and from those, I drew further branches to include more sub-points, most of which I hit on during my initial free writing above. These can all be taken from your free writing exercises and plugged into a mind map.
Mind Mapping Example
How Long Does it Take to Write a Hub?
Total time for creating this hub from start to finish, including the freewriting, mind map, writing and editing – 33 minutes. *This does not include creating the capsules etc. that is for writing and editing in Word. Sometimes more steps really do make us more efficient, even though that goes against the grain of everything we are taught.
How Mind Maps Work
Mind maps allow you to quickly organize your writing. They help you to ensure that you express all key points and facts, while at the same time helping you to narrow subjects down and cut down unnecessary excess. They work both sides of the brain - the creative side gets to express uninhibited and the organizational part gets to see everything and organize it.
It sounds like a lot of work, but once you have done it a few times, both processes go amazingly fast. After that, writing your article will take minutes, not hours. Yes, it is more steps, but it will improve your speed and make your writing more thorough and efficient. We tend to look at more steps as time consuming, or a waste and the natural first inclination is “I am not doing this, it's too much extra work”. Trust me, if you embrace good "pre-writing" the extra work will not only make you a faster writer, but a better one!
What did you Think?
After trying the freewriting exercises and mind mapping above please share your thoughts here or in the comments.
You May Also Benefit From...
- 7 Excellent Free Online Writing Courses
These free courses will improve your writing on many levels and give you the valuable skills you need to grow as a writer.
- How to Write Words that Captivate Your Readers
Learn how to capture your audiences attention by writing to appeal to their learning style. Tips for knowing your audience and using words that resonate with them.
- 101 Writing Prompts Fiction and Non-Fiction
101 original writing prompts for writers of all genres and styles. All writers benefits from trying different styles and this is a great place to start. Kick writer's block with a prompt.
I Challenge You!
I would love to hear from you. Try the exercises in this hub and share your thoughts and experiences with other readers. Let them know what you love and hate about it and if it helped you let go and write more freely. Will you develop it into regular practice? Why or why not?
© 2012 Christin Sander