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Original article printed in
December, 2009
Exercise Wheel for the Writing Rodent: Writing Exercises for Overcoming Writer's Block
Created By: Todd Rutherford

The bad news about writing is that it often comes with creativity blocks. The good news is that because writer’s block is such a common and frustrating experience, people have developed no shortage of ways to address and overcome it.

Some simple creative writing exercises include:

Three Famous People and a Baby: Imagine three famous people stuck in a room, or on a plane, or somewhere they cannot leave. Make the people as different as possible, either by virtue of their places in time, their religious affiliations, and their beliefs. And then put an abandoned infant in the room with them, and write about how they react. Do not worry about figuring out all the ways in which something like this could be possible. The idea is to get your mind to start finding the connections between seemingly disparate subjects.

Hidden Gems: Find the smallest thing you can, and write as much as you can about it. The classic example of this exercise is to write as much as you can about a piece of bubblegum found stuck underneath a seat in a movie theatre.

Reduction Method: This exercise is roughly the opposite of the previous one. It involves taking something or someone that looms very large, and trying to capture as much of their essence as possible with just a couple of words that are as contextually unique as possible (in other words, the word “big” would not be a contextually unique way of describing The Sears Tower in Chicago).

The Barbara Walters: Barbara Walters is famous for her interviews of famous people, and infamous for sometimes asking them the “tree” question (If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be). Choose people you know, make them trees and then craft a story about how they react to deforestation, or a wild fire, or encroaching development.

Some of these ideas might sound a little crazy, but then Animal Farm probably sounded a little odd before it was written.

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