It happens once or twice a year, inevitably, that I am drawn to them: writing exercises. I’ve had an almost continuous itch for them since I was in my late teens, since I realised how much pleasure I derived from writing, from creating. True, most of the time the itch lays dormant, as I roll about in other pleasures, like cooking, knitting, dyeing fibre, being outside, giggling with my boys, soaking in moonlight by the sea, and such similar small adventures of daily life.
Then, quite suddenly, an energy will sweep over me – the “time to create” energy of the Muses, like I’ve become their living quill, and am now hooked up, a conduit open to the Universe. I love these moments – the energy fills me and drives me like no other force. I feel a fire in my belly, in my solar-plexus. I have the urge to run, to sing, to dance, to drum, to paint, to write, to swirl and sway and somehow burn this fueling source. This often strikes me at inopportune moments, like when I am just about to go to bed, or take my son to school, or make spaghetti with meat sauce. I suppose the Muses don’t care about timing or circumstance. “Create!” they say, “Write! Take this voice we are giving you and let it be heard!” I’ve heard artists or their biographers mention how creation and art would happen at all hours, even driving them from sleep and their morning beds, in order to obey the command. Were I a proficient musician, I would go to my instrument, and play until my fingers ached. But since this drive most often points me to pen & paper (or in my case, a computer screen & keyboard), I step into the Writer’s shoes, and let the words flow.
Which brings me back to writing exercises. I have several books which contain wonderful ideas, suggestions and encouragement to help novice writers work through their demons, insights, Muse-ings, and stagnant moments. They can free that block which paralyzes us all frequently. When the energy of the Muses strikes not, these books can open a writer to becoming that conduit, or if the energy flows, they can help to direct and focus into workable writing.
Here is a list of the ones I love and use. Mine are all from many years ago, so there are likely several more recently published. Please feel free to share any you’d recommend.
- Writing the Wave, by Elizabeth Ayres
- Escaping into the open, Elizabeth Berg
- For Writers Only, Sophy Burnham
- The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
- Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
- Wild Mind, Living The Writer’s Life, Natalie Goldberg
Hm, I might need to take a wee break from my knitting (gasp!) and immerse myself into these books and their exercises again. After all, my story-in-utero is still percolating, but getting rather insistent that I start to actively work on it.
For now, to bed, to sleep, perchance to dream (have I mentioned that my dreams often give me wonderful and very detailed story ideas?)…