What are the best creative writing activities worth your time? And how can these activities help you become a better writer? Good creative writing activities should help you write faster and enjoy the process more. It shouldn't take too long to try or require any fancy tools or software.
For years, I struggled with writer's block, until I began experimenting with various fun creative writing activities.
Now in this article, I offer several creative writing activities that will help solve a problem like writer's block or write a better story for your readers.
- 1. Use Writing Prompts
- 2. Keep a Daily Journal
- 3. Try Free Writing
- 4. Research Your Subject
- 5. Write Without Interruption
- 6. Collaborate With Someone Else
- 7. Let Your Writing Sit
- 8. Get Feedback on Your Writing
- 9. Change the Point of View or Tense
- 10. Read Your Writing Aloud
- Bonus Creative Writing Activities: Reward Yourself
- Creative Writing Activities: FAQ
1. Use Writing Prompts
If you want to write, consider keeping a record of books you want to read or quotes that inspire you. I also recommend building a personal library of writing prompts.
A writing prompt is simply a question, statement or single sentence that serves as a springboard into your creative work. You can buy books of creative writing prompts or alternatively, you can record your own.
If you opt for the latter approach, I recommend using the first line from books you love. They're kind of like templates upon which you can jump off into the unknown.
You may also want to try brainstorming a list of creative writing prompts to use for your short story, essay or book chapter.
2. Keep a Daily Journal
Lots of writers also keep journals where they record daily observations about their lives or work. Essentially, these journals are where writers gather their ingredients for their next work.
You can't cook a stew with just water, just like you can't write without having something to say.
Many cooks keep clippings from their favourite chefs and recipe books. They use these as inspiration for meals to cook.
You can do so on your phone or in a paper notebook (I like the over-priced Moleskine notebooks). A notepad and paper by your bedside is a good idea for when inspiration strikes at 4am. Alternatively, apps like Day One make it easier to journal on a mobile phone.
The habit of daily observations is a good practice for any writer. I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their writing skills as it encourages you to sit down and write consistently.
Even if these observations sound silly in hindsight, you may be surprised by what turns up.
3. Try Free Writing
Free writing describes the act of writing about whatever is on your mind for a predetermined period. While free writing, your job is to get words down on the page without stopping to self-edit or censor yourself.
This type of exploratory creative writing is useful for solving problems like writer's block. It can also help reluctant writers increase their daily word-count. Free writing makes for a great story starter too.
You can free write on your writing app of choice, on a piece of paper, in the notes app on your phone.
If you'd like to learn more about free writing, check out the excellent book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.
4. Research Your Subject
If you write nonfiction, start with a clear brief of what you want to say and how you're going to say it.
Journalists receive a brief for a story from their editor (i.e. here's today's news agenda) or a source (i.e. “I have information for you about…”).
They also also spend time compiling lists of possible interviewees and deciding on questions to ask, just as a chef shops around for the finest ingredients.
Academics and educators decide for themselves what they want their work to taste like, albeit with the help of a tutor. They also spend time reading academic papers in their area of study and conducting qualitative and quantitative research.
Bloggers sign up to various blogs, using a feed reader to aggregate content and by keeping up to date on industry trends.
Having a clear brief for an article or book helps with critical thinking.
5. Write Without Interruption
Lots of writers have various routines they follow before writing. Some people like to cook while enjoying a glass of wine. (I like to write and drink coffee).
Other writers describe how they disable their internet access when they want to get some serious work done.
If you are an academic, preparation may involve taking key findings from your research papers and applying it to your area of study.
This stage also usually involves completing a literature review prior to engaging in the act of essay writing.
If you are a journalist, this exercise involves interviews with sources and newsworthy figures. It also involves collating relevant news articles and findings.
And if you are a blogger, focus on one theme or topic and research what search volume around this topic using a keyword analysis tool.
6. Collaborate With Someone Else
Sure, having a quiet place to write is important, but sometimes it's helpful to work with another writer or an editor on your piece. Alternatively, perhaps you can borrow ethically from work you admire.
A good sentence, like a stew, isn't going to write itself. Some pieces of work are light and easy to prepare. Other meaty pieces of work take longer to cook.
An academic will write several drafts of their paper or chapter, all the while assessing how it compares with current literature and weighing it against their central thesis.
A journalist will type out transcripts of their interviews, and consult with their editor or colleagues. They will search for a newsworthy angle and may even draw conclusions, depending on the tone of their piece.
A blogger will look for relevant posts by other bloggers to link. They will also frame the topic in such a way that it appeals to what readers are searching for. She or he will also consider supporting multimedia content.
7. Let Your Writing Sit
If you've finished writing a story, article or book chapter, let it sit on your computer or in your drawer for a while. Your subconscious will continue working on the idea while you do something else.
Cooks recommend leaving a stew simmering for several hours before serving. Similarly, a piece of writing is best left to marinate in a drawer (be that physical or digital).
This way, when you look at your work after a break, the words won't be as hot, and you'll be able to see if you need to season the piece with more facts or spice it up with some colour (i.e. unusual adverbs, similes and metaphors).
For an academic, this could involve letting a chapter rest for a few days and then making some quick edits before submitting to tutor for feedback.
A journalist, may have less time for their stew to prepare and will normally consult with their editor or sub-editor to finalise their piece.
A blogger has more leeway here, as they are normally their own bosses. They can take this time to season posts with relevant links, pictures, meta descriptions, ALT tags and a call to action.
The act of writing is more about turning up than it is about divine moments of inspiration. A lot of the time writing feels like drudgery, but there's a pleasure in watching your sentences slowly improve.
8. Get Feedback on Your Writing
Writers learn faster if they get feedback from other writers, knowledgable readers or editors.
A good stew is best eaten in company. Lots of writers have this idea that they should write for themselves. Instead, it's far better to share what you've created with friends, family and the wider public.
This essentially involves publishing your work. A blogger will upload their post onto their platform of choice and support it with social media comments. An academic will submit to an identified journal and a journalist will publish a story in a newspaper.
Writing in a public forum carries a degree of vulnerability, but it's a great way develop a consistent, recognisable voice. It also opens the writer up to criticism.
An editor or tutor will provide this anyway (it's their job), but if you are writing for yourself, consider asking a friend or subscribers to your blog for feedback.
Some criticism may be constructive and some of it won't help at all. Your fiercest critics could become your biggest enablers for better writing.
And there's always an argument for killing those sentences that give you the most pleasure.
In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner
9. Change the Point of View or Tense
I learnt this exercise while enrolled in a creative writing workshop years ago in the Irish Writer's Centre in Dublin.
If you have time to spare, consider rewriting a troublesome piece from the point of view of a different character. Alternatively, switch it from the past tense to the present tense.
Like many reluctant writers, at first I was sceptical when I heard about this creative writing exercise.
But for some odd reason, I was surprised to discover it worked.
These days, I find it easier and faster to write in the present tense, and whenever I'm blocked on an article or story, I rewrite it in that tense.
Perhaps the act of reviewing a piece of work and quickly editing it helps. The writing process is sometimes odd like that.
10. Read Your Writing Aloud
It's sometimes fun and instructive to read an extract from your piece aloud for others to listen to and critique. This creative writing activity works well in classrooms and in small groups.
The act of reading it aloud will help you listen for sentences to edit and rewrite.
The person facilitating the workshop or class should also offer the following writing instructions:
- Everyone should say one thing they liked and disliked about the piece.
- The writer can only comment at the end
- Everyone must read a piece aloud
Why all the rules?
Well, you can't control how readers react when they consume your published pieces in the privacy of their own homes.
If everyone read a piece aloud, the process will feel fair.
Bonus Creative Writing Activities: Reward Yourself
Writing is hard work. If you've accomplished a writing goal, reward yourself. Journalists tend to get paid for this, but some academics and most bloggers don't.
A reward could be a short break to watch a favourite TV programme or a walk in the park.
You could eat out after trying a creative writing activity successfully.
Just like dining in a fancy restaurant can give you ideas about what you'd like to cook next, reading other peoples' works (especially outside your preferred genre) is food for inspiration.
If the work is more involved, it could be a guilt-free purchase or even a holiday. These writing breaks are important because they refresh the writer's appetite.
Creative Writing Activities: FAQ
How do you make creative writing activities fun?
An enjoyable creative writing activity is usually easily to apply and doesn't require a lot of time or fancy tools. It's fun if the writer in question can approach the activity without fear of failure or judgment.
What are creative writing activities?
There are many to choose from but popular examples include journaling, free writing, using writing prompts, exploratory writing and writing to a tight deadline or low word-count.