Summary: This basic writing exercise puts you in touch with yourself to help you easily overcome writer's block—and boost your writing skills and self-awareness in the process.
The powers of observation are wondrous. When you harness them for yourself, you can accomplish so much more in your life than you can without them. You can be more self-aware and more self-honest, which in turn means you can be more honest with others in a positive way.
Today, I'd like to share with you an exercise that can help you be more aware in general. And as an added bonus, this trick is great for overcoming writer's block—no matter what you need to write about, whether it's basic or esoteric. I'll share with you some practical steps you can take in every situation you encounter, using this simple written exercise. (If you can think of other situations that I don't address in this blog post, let me know! I'll gladly share with you a customized version that's sure to help solve your problem.)
Using a writing instrument (pen and paper, computer station, tube of lipstick on whatever flat surface you can find—your choice), gaze upon the object nearest to you. Pick something basic and simple, like your coffee mug or computer keyboard. After about a minute or less, begin writing whatever comes to mind that describes this object.
First, write a physical description: "My coffee mug is off-white in color and made of heavy stoneware material," etc. Be as specifically detailed as you can be, and take as much time as you like. Remember, the idea is to write more, rather than less.
After you have filled a minimum of half a page (or its equivalent), begin to write about what feelings this object—or anything in the sentence you've just written about it—brings up in you, physically or emotionally. (Both is even better.) Start writing this next segment immediately; don't pause! It's perfectly acceptable to write associatively here: "When I think of coffee mugs, in general, I always remember my grandfather, who had a pot brewing at every visit. This makes me feel sentimental and a little sad that he's no longer around to give me his words of wisdom over the rim of his cup." It's also okay to stay literal: "This is my favorite mug, because it always feels warm in my hand—not so hot that it burns me, like the ceramic ones in the cabinet." Try to write more than a page.
Finally, see if you can bring the writing to a close, coming full circle by mentioning whatever you started with—even if you have to do this by mentioning how unrelated the two ideas are, in segue. For example: "My grandfather never owned a plain coffee mug like the one I drink from today" or "It's the stoneware that makes the difference." Just closing the loop between the beginning and the ending of your written piece is enough to end the exercise, and still makes for good practice in writing.
This exercise can jump-start anything—from an introspective journal entry to a dryly fact-based report. It helps your creative synapses begin to fire and helps you start to draw connections where you wouldn't as easily otherwise. Try it and see for yourself.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010