Challenge your creativity with these stolen writing exercises

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Did the word ‘stolen’ get your attention. Shame on you.

They are not stolen, they are published in John Gardner’s “The Art of Fiction.” If you click on his name you find his Wiki page and a picture of him smoking a pipe. Writer’s back in the day-a long day past-often posed with their pipe. It made them look intellectual. He was that; a Beowulf scholar, professor, and writer. One of his students was the great short story writer, Raymond Carver. Before he died in a motorcycle accident in 1982 I met Mr. Gardner when I was in college.

There were two things I remember from his visit to my college to speak with some of us English Lit majors. First he said “Treasure Island” was something beyond fiction. He tried to explain, then realized he couldn’t explain it. It bothers me to this day. What was he trying to say when he is not sure what he is trying to say. The second is that when I had him sign my copy of his book “Grendel” he said it was his least favorite book, that it was not written well. Yet the book won an award, so there you go, a writer never satisfied with his work. And I respect that.

But he was very engaging and he offered a great writing exercise which I never forgot. He mentions it in the aforementioned book, on fiction, but I will offer some other exercises from the book to challenge your creativity and to make your work better.

For the  exercise to develop technique try this: Describe a landscape as seen by an old woman whose disgusting and detestable old husband has just died. Do not mention the husband or death. Or describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention murder. Or describe a landscape as seen by a bird. Do not mention the bird. 

To control tone in a complex sentence try this on for size. Write three effective long sentences: each at least 250 words, each involving a different emotion ( anger, pensiveness, sorrow, joy).

There are reasons for the exercises and that is to make your writing better, so get at it.

Thanks John.



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