I think it’s safe to say that most writers focus on pieces they want to publish. Short stories, poems, novels, it’s all done with the end goal of seeing it in print. That being the case, I think it’s also safe to assume that many writers don’t do any writing practice. You know, exercises, vignettes, little one-offs that will never see the light of day.
I think that’s unfortunate. To me, any writing is good writing. Even if you think it’s trash, the fact that you’re putting words on the page is a good thing. It’s practice. It gives you the opportunity to try new things, do something silly or stupid, or simply keep your mind active.
There are all sorts of ways one can practice writing and it doesn’t have to be dry and repetitive. You can work from writing prompts, which you can find all over the internet. I have a little tiny book someone gave me years ago that’s just pages and pages of quick prompts. Every so often I flip through to a random page and write about whatever I find there.
You can also pick a random passage from a book on one of your bookshelves. Open to a random page, pick a random sentence, then use that to come up with few hundred spontaneous words. It can be part of the story in the book or something completely random. The choice is yours.
Along those same lines, if you’ve read something that you didn’t think was very well done, maybe a chapter of a book or a paragraph in a short story, use this as an opportunity to rewrite it how you think it should have been.
In a previous post I wrote about having fun with writing, and writing exercises fall into that category. Exercises are an opportunity to take chances, try something new. Maybe you can use one of your own writing projects as a starting point. For example, say you’re writing a science fiction story. Try rewriting it as erotica. If you’re writing historical fiction, turn it into steampunk. You don’t have to rewrite everything, just a few paragraphs or pages, if only to see what you can do with it.
One of the best places I’ve found for writing practice inspiration is the website LanguageisaVirus.com. I’ve been visiting it for many years and I always find something interesting to play around with. There are writing prompt generators, games, character trait generators, all sorts of things that will stimulate your imagination and provide you with ways to practice your craft.
Working on your projects is important, but I think it’s just as important to practice on the side. Doing short exercises a couple of times a week is beneficial. Just like physical exercise can improve your overall well-being, writing exercise and practice can improve your writing skills.
Give it a shot. You don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain.