If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.
– Hippocrates

Exercise can easily be defined as something one has to do in order to improve oneself in a particular area. That sounds rather broad, so to put it into perspective, we do physical exercise in order to keep fit and healthy, we exercise proper hygiene in order to stay clean, we exercise discipline in order to keep our lives and our affairs in order. And, of course, if we are writers, we have a few exercises we perform to keep our wordsmithing in good shape.

Writing is so taxing, of course, and you cannot continue constantly writing without taking a break. That’s understandable – we all need to breathe, sometimes. But taking a break is no excuse to not do anything productive with your time – especially if you’re serious about writing. We’re not talking about not taking a break – we’re talking about doing something fun for your sake. We’ve already talked about taking breaks, distancing yourself away from what you’re working on, and coming back to it in a couple of months or even just a couple of weeks. In the interim, you can start on other projects or fulfill other obligations – which may or may not sound fun, at all. You may also lose touch of writing, so that will be difficult.

What can be done is exercise. Not the physical kind of exercise, obviously. Writing exercises. They may sound difficult and unappealing, especially if you think about what you will be, fundamentally, doing: that is, forcing yourself to actually write outside of your current main projects. But the thing about exercise is that it should be fun, if you want it to yield some interesting – and more importantly, excellent – results. What’s great is that, while you have to commit yourself to doing writing exercises regularly, they don’t always have to be same. You don’t always have to actually write a poem, or a story, or a drabble, every writing exercise session. Look at Brian Klems’ 12-day Writing Exercise Plan, for example. Vary what you do every day, without losing sight of what’s important: working towards a goal.

One thing you can do when you plan your writing exercise activities is to definitely have a goal to achieve. The point of exercises is not for you to start out a new project (which you may or may not abandon halfway through), but for you to look at your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and for you to hone them. ChaoticShiny is a great place for writing exercises (and a great resource place in general – they have name generators, plot device generators, plot twist generators, and other really neat things). Here’s a sample of the writing exercises that the site generates:

  • Write for at least 700 words about a competition, a lawyer, a lamp, and a piece of jewelry.
  • Write for at least 5 minutes about a competition, a locked box, a window, and a priest. Focus on describing characters.
  • Write for at least 5 minutes about a drinking glass, and a prison. Focus on dialogue.
  • Write for at least 5 minutes about a flirtation, and a window.
  • Write for at least 100 words about a financial difficulty, a messenger, and a physician. Focus on writing from a different perspective than your usual one.

What’s great about the ChaoticShiny Writing Exercise Generator is that it also invites you to focus on particular things. Writing exercises, in other words, gives you the opportunity to work out particular writing muscles that you own. There are a lot of writing exercise generators online, and you can challenge yourself to look for them, work on them, and include them in your daily life. Just ten minutes a punch can work wonders – remember that time, or lack of it, should not be something that stops you from doing what you want to do.

Here’s an exercise-related quote:

Exercise is really important to me – it’s therapeutic. So if I’m ever feeling tense or stressed or like I’m about to have a meltdown, I’ll put on my iPod and head to the gym or out on a bike ride along Lake Michigan with the girls.
– Michelle Obama

Think of writing exercises as your therapy sessions. No pressure, nothing to worry too much about. Just focus on writing and keep going. Who knows? It may jumpstart another great project. Use writing exercises as the bricks or building blocks that will eventually make up your projects or build your writing skills – you’ll thank yourself later when you realize that all those five-minutes-apiece exercises you’ve done bring you somewhere pretty impressive.