Free Writing and Creativity Exercises to Improve Productivity

Free Writing and Creativity Exercises to Improve Productivity

June 2, 2022 | By Laurie Campbell | No Comments

Whether you need to break through a frustrating writer’s block or are searching to find a new twist for marketing your client’s product or service, consider exploring some free writing and creativity exercises.

Wait. What?

No tips for better business writing, faster content generation, or stronger headlines?

Not today. Instead, in this article, we’re going to look at how taking time to have fun and experiment with free writing will make you a more productive writer.

We’ll also look at three writing exercises from the March Book Club selection, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg.

Using Creative Thought

We humans are constantly processing our environment to make sense of things we see, hear, and experience around us.

Our brains are curious, or restless, always looking for the “next new thing.” This desire for novelty leads us to innovate and create.

In a 2016 study, researchers wanted to pinpoint how thoughts become creative ideas. The scientists who study this say creativity depends on two competing brain networks:

  • Default Mode — our spontaneous ideas and thoughts
  • Executive Control Mode — everything else going on in the brain, deciding what action to take

In one study, when researchers asked artists to plan a piece of artwork, they observed that cooperation between the two networks increased. And among professional artists, the interaction between the two networks went up.

Their new theory was that no single area of your brain is responsible for creative thought. Rather, many interacting processes of these large-scale brain networks act together to give birth to a great idea by doing three things:

  1. Bending what we see
  2. Breaking what we expect
  3. Blending things with other things

 

What Does This Mean to You as a Writer?

When given a specific writing task, your brain should be able to process all of the information you learn from your research and combine it with your experience, turning it into valuable new ideas.

To be more creative, you must give your curious brain more to think about, work through, and “noodle with.”

First, writers should read every day. Reading widely gives your brain even better fodder to work with.

And, of course, you should write every day. Preferably including free writing.

The B2B Writing Success Book Club selection has neatly combined the two!

Writing Down the Bones

When teaching her writing classes, Natalie Goldberg wanted her students to be “writing down the bones,” or the “essential, awake speech of their minds.”

To help her students learn to write with clarity and honesty, she created different techniques and methods to try.

Her book, Writing Down the Bones, is a compilation of her writing exercises. Each chapter is one exercise, designed to be its own whole. You decide how to use the book: work through each chapter consecutively or turn to any chapter and write.

Her gentle advice to the reader: “Relax as you read and absorb it, as by osmosis with your whole body and mind. And don’t just read it. Write. Trust yourself. Learn your own needs. Use this book.”

Just reading the Table of Contents will make you chuckle (and arouse your curiosity). For example:

  • Tap the Water Table
  • Man Eats Car
  • Baking a Cake
  • What Are Your Deep Dreams?
  • Nervously Sipping Wine

Right now, let’s look briefly at three different chapters. You should complete these exercises in a notebook or on your computer, one at a time.

First Thoughts

She considers the timed exercise to be the basic unit of writing practice. You choose the amount of time you want to write during that session. Then, for the full period:

  1. Keep your hand moving.
  2. Don’t cross out.
  3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.
  4. Lose control.
  5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
  6. Go for the jugular.

The aim is to burn through first thoughts, to “the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel. It’s a great opportunity to capture the oddities of your mind.”

First thoughts are when the mind first flashes on something. They have tremendous energy because they have to do with freshness and inspiration, revealing truth.

If you prefer to have prompts, AWAI has a whole bunch of prompts you can use.

Composting

Goldberg uses graphic, concrete words to describe our bodies and how we relate to the world. In this chapter she suggests, “our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time.”

She encourages us to continue turning over and over the organic details of life until we find something has fallen on the “solid ground of black soil.”

When we begin to see the rich garden growing inside ourselves, we can use that, adding new depth and meaning to our writing.

Don’t Marry the Fly

This is her warning to writers who tend to wander in their descriptions.

When using descriptions in our writing, we should always aim for precision and only include details that give the reader direction. For example, when writing a restaurant scene, you can notice the fly on the sandwich, but don’t get obsessed with it. “Recognize the fly, even love it if you want, but don’t marry it.”

She reminds us that the goal of the written word is to “make the reader awake, present, and alive. But if the writer wanders, then the reader, too, will wander.”

The passage becomes fuzzy, resulting in the reader’s mind straying, digressing, or becoming confused. Try to practice writing descriptions so you get used to honing in on what’s important.

Free Writing Creativity Exercises: Your New Productivity Tool

If you’re already practicing creative writing exercises, good for you. Keep going, always searching out new resources to help you dig deeper and expand wider with your writing.

If you haven’t done something like this before, hopefully this article has inspired you to try some options.

We writers are naturally curious and observant. We like to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated things, painting a bigger picture with words. This is creativity.

With every writing project, remember how “writing down the bones” gives your words clarity and truth. The reader will sense this and trust you more.

Nurturing your creativity with free writing will improve your writing skills and increase your productivity, adding value to your client and their customers.

What creativity exercises have helped improve your writing? Please share in the comments below.

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Laurie Campbell

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