Writing projects can be like children.
You love them dearly, but sometimes they irritate you and you need a break.
Working on something fresh can invigorate your mind and give you a new approach to your work.
These exercises can work for fiction and nonfiction alike:
1. Practice free association. Pull up a new Word document, take a deep breath, and write whatever comes to mind. Dig as deep as you can into your subconscious, and don’t worry about what comes out. Sometimes there’s a mental blockage from something that’s been bothering you, so write it down and get it out of your system.
2. Think outside the box. Think of something you’re passionate about, such as a hobby or a love interest, and write everything you know about it. When slumps happen, it helps to write about something you love. Even if you jot down only one paragraph, it’s rejuvenating to work on something that’s not your current project.
3. Sharpen the saw. Read another author’s work, especially one who writes in the same style or format as your current project. If you’re writing fantasy, read some Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. If you’re writing a biography, look at bios of your favorite actors or writers. Escaping into someone else’s world for a bit can relax you enough to dive into your own writing again.
4. Use the musical muse. Writers feel their work, and when you can’t quite describe what you’re feeling on paper, it can be frustrating. Get out your iPod or computer, put on your earphones, and find songs that appeal to you and the scene or piece you’re working on. Grooveshark.com and Pandora.com offer free music streaming to get those juices flowing.
5. Play Mad Libs. Choose one noun, adjective and verb. Make them as random as possible. Write a story using those words in context. You can also do this exercise with a fellow writer and give each other your noun, adjective and verb to see what you both come up with.
6. Eavesdrop. This is a wonderful exercise if you struggle to write natural dialogue between your characters. Sit in a public place, such as a park or a college campus, and listen to the things people say as they walk by. Take copious notes, and share them with other writers. This exercise is also great if you need a laugh.
7. Use writing prompts. A writing prompt is simply a topic around which you start jotting down ideas. The prompt could be a single word, a short phrase, a complete paragraph or even a picture, with the idea being to give you something to focus upon as you write.
8. List people, places, events. Draw two lines on a piece of paper to form three columns. In the first, list every type of person you can think of, such as police, firefighters, grandparents, your spouse, a princess and so on. Next, think of places; ranging from the grocery store to Ireland. In the last column, list a time period or historical event such as the Battle of Gettysburg or the year 1492. Combine a person, place and event, and experiment with writing about that situation.
9. Research something unusual. Select a topic, like the African Bush or squids, and look it up on as many reference sites as you can find, such as Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, Wikipedia.org and About.com. Learn as much as you can about this new topic. Keep a file for research notes.
10. Adopt a new perspective. Pick a genre or point of view you have never tried before and write a short story. If you normally use third-person point of view, switch to first person. If you usually focus on nonfiction, branch out into fiction. If you write sappy romances, give action/adventure a try. It’s scary to leave your comfort zone, but you’d be surprised the kind of inspiration you get when you switch your perspective.
A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.