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2 Exercises to See If You Should Be A Writer

Updated on January 7, 2013

Thinking of Being a Writer?

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Ever thought about being a writer? Do you think you have it in you? Think that you too ould write the next best seller, you just haven't gotten around to it yet? Have you got a spare 30mins a day for just a few weeks? Well, then, you can wonder no more!

Complete the following two activities for a set time frame (I'm suggesting 2 weeks to a month, whatever works best for you), and at the end you will not only know if you can be a write, but what you should write about!

These exercises were first developed and outlined by Dorothea Brande in 1932, in her work 'On Becoming a Writer'. This is now out of copyright so can be downloaded for free. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in a lifestyle of writing.


Exercise 1:

Everyday, for the month, wake up and immediately start writing. You can use pen and paper or a laptop, but just start writing whatever your mind wants to write before doing anything else. Don't try to dictate to your mind what it should write, just let it do its own thing and just keep writing until you start to dry up.

Now calculate how much you have written, either in minutes or in words. Maybe you wrote for 15 minutes on the first day, or managed to get 200 words. Good. Leave it, don't touch it until tomorrow morning, when you will do the exact same thing. As soon as you wake up, just start writing. You are not to read over what you have written before or to carry on from what you started yesterday. The only requirement is that you try to write a little bit more each day, and keep that up everyday for the month.

The three important keys to this exercise:

1. first thing in the morning, let your mind write whatever it wants.

2. do not read over what you have written until the end of the month

3. try to write a little bit more each day.


At the same time you should be also doing the second exercise.


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Exercise 2:

Every night, before going to sleep, look at your schedule for the next day and block in 15 minutes for writing. No more, no less, and whenever you like. Then, the next day, at a minute past that time, you must be writing no matter what. This might mean you have to abruptly leave a conversation. Well, that was just badly planned of you, and now you have to live with the consequences. Yes, it might appear rude, but if you want to be a writer, people are going to think a lot worse than that of you, so you had better get used to it.

So you must start at exactly the time you have scheduled, and you must stay there writing for the full fifteen minutes. Once again, you can write about whatever your mind feels like, and if you are struggling, just start with 'I'm struggling with this exercise because...'

Specifically aim to pick a different time each day, spread out over the day, so that you train yourself to write whenever and wherever.

Now, there will be plenty of excuses to change the time, just skip it this one time, shorten the 15 minutes etc. However, this is your career as a writer at stake. Do not put it off even by five minutes.

The Results?

If you complete these exercises everyday for a month, you will find out a number of things about yourself.

The first is rather harsh. Ms. Brande argues that if you have skipped even one of these meetings during the month, you should give up any notion of being a writer. You are not cut out for it. This is harsh, very harsh, but there might be some truth in it. Even if you are technically very good at writing, if you can't make yourself do it even for a month, you do not love it enough. Perhaps your current schedule really is too busy, so perhaps you can do the exercise again in a year and see if you have developed. However, until you have successfully completed the exercises for a set time frame, you would be better off using your skills for other things that you have more passion for.

The other important thing you will have found out is what your mind naturally likes to write. Now is the time to read over everything you have written unhindered by topics and deadlines. Look both at the genre and the style of the writing. Has your mind gone into long descriptions? This suggests perhaps you are naturally a novelist. Or are they very short, precise descriptions which would suit a short story or essay better? Has it slipped into horror or romance, do dead bodies keep turning up unexpectedly? Or has your writing remained completely factual and to the point? Write down everything your own writing has shown you, and think about where you can take that.

Along with this self knowledge, you will also have trained and developed two of the most essential skills for being a writer:

You should have increased the amount you are able to write in one go and you should have trained yourself to be able to write anywhere, anytime, which is a very useful skill indeed.

Despite a lot of talk about inspiration and the creative flow, writing is like every other skill: practice makes better. Everything needs to be practiced, and everything gets better with deliberate practice. If you want to be a writer, or even just have to do a lot of writing in your current career, spending time practicing to become better is not a waste.

So, get out there and write!


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Skills


Along with this self knowledge, you will also have trained and developed two of the most essential skills for being a writer:


You should have increased the amount you are able to write in one go and you should have trained yourself to be able to write anywhere, anytime, which is a very useful skill.


Despite a lot of talk about inspiration and the creative flow, writing is like every other skill: practice makes better. Everything needs to be practiced, and everything gets better with deliberate practice. If you want to be a writer, or even just have to do a lot of writing in your current career, spending time practicing to become better is not a waste. So, get out there and write!


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