Creative Writing Exercises: 10-Minute Workouts for Writers


Most writers I know have a little voice in their head called The Inner Editor.

This voice is, well, opinionated, which is a euphemism for mean. I talk a lot more about how to channel the voice inside your head, to help create your best work in my class, Write Your Story right here on CreativeLive.

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The Inner Editor is that gnawing voice telling us that our writing isn’t good enough, that we’ll never finish that essay or short story or novel, that we should probably just stop writing altogether and go back to clown college.

Over the years, I’ve learned some valuable tricks to silence my Inner Editor, and the most effective involves a timer.

Why? Well, the Inner Editor requires the author’s attention, and the timer prevents that because the writer is solely focused on generating new words.

So set the timer for ten minutes and write. JUST WRITE! Don’t correct spelling. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t “police” what you’re putting down. These are minutes dedicated to exploring your story. There’s plenty of time to come back and clean things up later.

What we’re trying to accomplish is to make your imagination feel free.

We don’t want you self-conscious while you’re writing. We want The Inner Editor to be muted. That way, we are liberated from anything that might hold us back.

It may sound counterintuitive—a ticking clock actually relaxing you??!!—but trust me, this really works.

Here are two 10-minute creative writing exercises that I regularly use to get the creative juices flowing:

1. Confined Space.

Take one of your (main) characters and trap her/him with the person they’d least like to be stuck with.

Get them in an elevator, a mine shaft, the back of a cab, a coffin, whatever: That’s for you to decide.  Just make sure your character would like to get away from this person and she/he cannot.

What happens? What do they do to free themselves? And why do they detest this person so much? Is it mutual? Does the scene work up to a boil?

2. The Pyro Pleasure.

It’s two days after Christmas and your character walks home after work. A bunch of dried, discarded Christmas trees line the block.

Suddenly, she sees someone who appears to be crying, carrying some of these dried trees into the middle of the street and lighting them on fire, saying, “Why, Jim, why did you do it?” They don’t seem dangerous; they seem brokenhearted, and as they stand back and admire the blaze, your character approaches the crying person and strikes up a conversation.

What happens? Do they go somewhere together? Are there more things to burn that night?

Writing with the timer has helped me mute my mean Inner Editor, and I hope it works for you, as well.

At the end of the day, authors always hunt for techniques to help us feel relaxed while we write. That way, our imagination is utterly free to do anything on the page!

Happy writing. Come join me in my class, Write Your Story and let’s take this to the next level.

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Josh Mohr FOLLOW >

Josh Mohr is a CreativeLive instructor and the author of five novels, including “Damascus,” which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.”