Creative Nonfiction Writing Exercises

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As she walked us through the steps of writing short, powerful pieces, like her much-anthologized apologia “Swerve” and the sensory-rich “What I Could Eat,” she couldn’t stop smiling. Sometimes, the more constraints we give ourselves, the more fun we can have.

On the last day of the conference, I asked her about her generative writing group, which meets every week to do a series of unusual exercises: first, five minutes of subject-verb-object sentences; then, ten minutes of linking sentences; and finally, one long, continuous run-on sentence for twenty minutes. Think about the rules of a sport or a game: while a free-for-all may sound like fun, we often prefer to have rules and guidelines, and to see how much creativity and mastery we can accomplish within those guidelines.

Let’s forgo the thought of a creative vacation, and So how do you create magnificent art and how do you stay at it every day? If you’re are a writer, and you wait to be in the mood to write, then you’re not a professional.

This is like needing a knee operation, and hoping the doctor is in the mood to do your surgery today.

My addition to this is to reward yourself at regular intervals, say after an unbroken week or month, with a special treat or activity.” The artist’s brain is messy. There are plenty of examples of creative talents choosing to be a bit light on the housework.

So where did us creatives get the idea that if we tidy our mind and ourselves from our current environment, suddenly the work we produce is going to be next level?

Let’s forget about romanticizing a 6-month window to go away and create our best work.

Being head on in the problem makes your art even better.

Adam loves guitars, music, books, and his wife Lacey.

On the last morning of a writers’ retreat I went to a year ago, there was a tiny bell lying on the seat of every chair in the spacious conference center. Here were writers who took their art seriously, but not themselves—at least, not all the time.


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