New habit…and a bit on books about writing.

April 7, 2010 § 9 Comments


The experiment worked. I could tie its success to spiritual reasons but would likely lose you as a reader if I did so. Let’s just say that 40 days of daily writing “practice” can engender writing as a habit. It has. The “dailies” continue.

In fact, writing exercise has become something that I now look forward to. Crave. Need. Doesn’t matter if I do it for a half hour or half day or (let’s exaggerate here) half a minute. It is to the point that writing practice, writing exercise, feels good. And certain doors (certainly in my memory) bang open each time I sit down to write. (Mind you, this is writing exercise, not writing a novel or anything.)

EARLY WARNING: This blog entry will natter on about a book on writing that included writing exercises. Some of you are yawning already and I get that, it’s ok.

My recent personal challenge was to read my way through some books about writing. Here then, is one of the ones I have finished, and so far, have three notebooks full (on one side of each page) with writing exercises and writing lists. (the other side of the page is for gluing things like ticket stub, cartoons, ideas that I like but have no idea what to do with otherwise. Actually, what I’ve come up with is “scrap writing.”


I will say that the writing comes much more easily as a result of this daily practice. The writing is not  better; it just comes more easily. The words and thoughts and images and memories and silly or simple or silent plots just spill into the exercise book. No required looking back at what was written, no editing, no asking someone to read. It’s an exercise book, for pete’s sake.

And so, after reading/working my way through PEN ON FIRE (reviewed several blog entries ago), I next picked up POEMCRAZY. 
It seems to be a thin volume, maybe not taken too seriously in fact, but it’s doable. Once you slow down to tackle (once again, only some of) the exercises, the book takes much longer to get through, of course. You have to be true. If you attempt an exercise, you gotta take it to its max, not cheat the clock or any tangents the subject matter might inspire. You have to be “there.” You have to use pen and paper. Well, you don’t have to, but it works better.

I liked POEMCRAZY.  For several reasons, not the least of which is that poetry should infuse prose, I think. And author Wooldridge pulls out several poetical stops to inspire the writer. Note however that I am prone to elevate Poets to a certain literary pedestal and love them especially if I have even a glimmer of what they’re talking about.

I like the cover. (There we go, leaping!)

POEMCRAZY is a nice little tome, after all, and worth a read. Some of it is so obvious but then, that’s part of the point, dealing with the obvious and seeing it, making it fresh, giving stale vocabulary the boot, playing with structure, making up words. (Probably one of the best exercises in there.) 

Ms Wooldridge is sincere, light hearted yet serious about her work and she does a lot of poetry workshops with children. You have to appreciate that, at least. You get glimpses of her home, her husband and children, her yard, her trees, her walkways and the sounds and slant of light in California. (Thank you, Emily D, for the idea/phrase ” a certain slant of light.”)

Maybe worth having, at least for its size. I kept it in my purse (I carry a big purse, in fact it’s a bag, not a purse.)  The chapters are short, the exercises now and then concrete. Having written your way through it, and gleefully skipping some of the stuff she asks you to do (I begged off of labeling everything in the room with cutesy word combination “tickets”), you will feel accomplished, even if you don’t look back at what you did.

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§ 9 Responses to New habit…and a bit on books about writing.

  • Becca says:

    I’ve got this one (as well as Pen on Fire) in my aresenal of books about writing. I enjoyed it, but found it a bit more quirky than my usual writing practice, which is probably a sign it would do me some good!

    I had a really good daily writing habit going a couple of years ago, and filled about 20 notebooks with writing. I did find myself craving that writing time, and I think it was really helpful in keeping me inspired to write and in creating ideas for writing.

    Sadly, I’ve let that morning writing habit lapse in favor or a morning exercise habit, so my physical body is benefiting right now more than my creativity. If only we didn’t have to sleep, I could get so much more done!

    One of my favorite writing books is The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. Inspiring essays and good exercises too.

  • mandy says:

    I just recently bought a new journal. I really want to get into the habit of writing every day. Even if its some nonsense, just to write every day. Perhaps I will pick up that book you suggested and work through some of the exercises.

  • qugrainne says:

    Oh my! I am so impressed (and just a little green)! Wonderful. Like Becca, the morning exercise has taken a chunk of my day. The rest of the day is whittled down until there is nothing left.

    On break this week, I have spent some time each day writing, but……

    You said, “…even if you don’t go back and look at what you did” and that is so true. Isn’t it wonderful to have that stack of journals/notebooks/scraps of odd paper and not have to be attached to them!?

    You have inspired me with your dedication… I will report back about my success with “the daily writing practice.”

  • Lisa D says:

    I keep saying I should do this! I haven’t written anything with a paper and pen for so so so long. I miss it and it is so therapeutic for me. I should see if my library has this book (trying not to buy books right now!).

    I am inspired by your dedication!!

  • Charity says:

    I love this idea. I’ve been casting about for something writing craft related to do this summer, when, in theory, I may not have a larger project going on. Maybe I’ll save my money and simply work my way through a craft book or two.

  • jeanie says:

    I am quite impressed! I haven’t done regular writing practice for a number of years (Morning Pages, mostly, sometimes written at night, because we know this girl just isn’t a morning person!) But mostly, my writing practice is the Gypsy which isn’t exactly honing a fine craft!

    You are filling up those notebooks — I’ll have to start making more so I can get you a new one before you fill all the others!

    Happy weekend!

  • Big Daddy says:

    Strong pieces on Easter, Spring and writing discipline….you are a power-blogger to say the least. Thanks for sharing!

  • shoreacres says:

    I’m just chuckling here at one of the “possibly related posts” at the bottom of your entry: “My name is Fran, and I’m a Bible thumper”. It fits perfectly for what all of us do – spreading the gospel of reading and writing, the good news that literacy and eloquence don’t have to be a ticket straight into oblivion and irrelevance!

    I do like the idea of daily exercises, and am intrigued by the books mentioned here, but the fact is there isn’t enough time in my day for me to keep my blog going and do exercises. The research alone for my last post took about six hours, and putting the video together took about ten, and then there was the writing….

    I think my goal for the spring and early summer actually is to reduce the time between posts. I’m hitting every seven days now, and I’d like to move back to every five. OK, six. 😉

    I know this – the regularity of whatever we do is critical. Athletes know about muscle memory. I’ll bet there’s mental muscle memory, too!

  • Carrie says:

    I love it [the scrap writing]. You can always motivate me to write something…

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