I don’t always rely on books for writing exercises. Sometimes I google them. It depends where I am. If I’m in a cafe, or when I was bored at work, I’d find web sites that listed some. Since I prefer writing non-fiction, I searched for memoir-type exercises, but usually without success. So now I rely on fiction writing exercises, replacing "two characters" with "two people" in the instructions. Sometimes the fiction exercises just free my writing up. Here are some of the books I’ve used…the list is not expansive. These aren’t books on writing, or the writer’s way. They aren’t about morning pages or artist dates. I’m only listing the ones I find really helpful:
In truth, though, I rarely use those anymore, though they are helpful when you’re stuck or feel like everything is turning out dull. The memoir book doesn’t really tell you how to write an autobiography, but it does offer you good memory-inducing questions, lists, and spaces to answer childhood questions. Aside from these books, I read poetry, and sometimes will pluck a word or turn of phrase, and make it my own, weaving it into a story, or imagining what it must be like to live in the narrator’s head. Sometimes it’s a phrase, like, "faute de mieux" which Crosby, Stills, & Nash turned into "Love the One You’re With." So I decided to write as if I were in that position. Or what it must be like to be Ibsen’s Nora. I like taking someone I know and imagining what it must be like to be them, growing up. Look at Wicked. I love the idea of taking the side of a typical villain and showing how they’ve been wronged, but these things take time. I like the exercises in the first two books I’ve mentioned because they limit how much time you should spend on each exercise to a few minutes. It’s just to get your brain lubricated. They aren’t supposed to be sensational works of art. It’s why I laugh when anyone comments that I could "try harder." I think people forget that I don’t TRY to put my best foot forward when writing this blog. They forget I’m writing a television show and another book right now. They forget that I do it for fun, and that for the most part, this blog is where I dump my days. It’s my "today I…" place. And I’m keeping it that way. If an entry is labeled "writing exercise," try to understand, I’m not always writing from my own point of view. That’s what all the other categories are for.