9 Fun Creative Writing Exercises to Boost Your Writing

, Staff Writer
Updated July 21, 2020
young man doing creative writing
    young man doing creative writing
    Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

New and interesting creative writing exercises can help you get inspired and improve your creative writing skills. Like anything, creative writing is about practice. The more you do it, the better you get. These exercises will help you take your creative writing to the next level.

1. Write Your Future Self a Letter

You don’t have to work on a novel or create a poem to get your creative juices flowing. You can also try some creative nonfiction by writing a letter to the future you. Often, writing is easier when you know your audience, and it’s impossible to know anyone as well as you know yourself.

Start by thinking about your future self. What will that version of you want to know about your life right now? Then set pen to paper and create your letter. Be sure to include lots of sensory imagery and detail.


2. Explore Stream-of-Consciousness Writing With a Dream Journal

Writing down what you remember from your dreams is a great way to stimulate your creative energy. Dreams are like stories that are full of mystery, fantasy, and adventure. When you write down your dreams, you unfold a parallel universe full of exciting adventure. There are no rules here.

Start by simply writing what you remember from your dreams. It doesn’t matter how silly it may seem; don’t judge any of it. Let your mind go and allow your pen to move freely across the page (or your fingers over the keyboard). Add to the details as you wish, creating characters, settings, and new plot arcs. You will be pleasantly surprised by the latent creativity you have hidden inside of you.


3. Start With Fact and Add Three Elements of Fiction

Great writing often starts with exaggeration or embellishment. Many famous writers, such as Jack London, started with what they knew and then created stories around that. You can do the same.

Begin by choosing an event in your life, a setting you know well, or a person with whom you’ve interacted. Then, add three elements of fiction to this real-world starting point. For instance, you could start with a childhood memory of your mom locking the keys in the car at the beach. Add a thunderstorm that didn’t happen to ramp up the tension. Bring in a kindly but vaguely sinister lifeguard for some great character interaction. Change the setting by turning a local lake into the Atlantic ocean. Then write a few pages about this situation.


4. Write Using the Intimate Senses

Sensory descriptions are always great creative writing exercises, but not all senses are created equal. Multiple characters can see the same view or hear the same birds, even at a distance from one another. Sight and hearing are great for description, but it’s easy to rely on them. Bring in the more intimate senses of smell, taste, and touch in this creative writing exercise.

Imagine any character in any setting. Write one or two sentences about what they are seeing and hearing to establish the scenario; then move on to the intimate senses. What does your character smell? Think specifics here: road tar, lilacs, cut grass, dead fish, or anything else. What does your character taste? Use gustatory imagery to describe a lollipop, mint lip gloss, blood, stamp glue, or another flavor. What does your character feel on his or her body? Write with tactile imagery to describe an itchy sweater, sand in the mouth, a lover’s fingernail, the icy cold water of a mountain stream, and other vivid details.


5. Write the “Meanwhile” Story of Your Favorite Book

Every writer makes choices about what to include in the story, and the writer of your favorite book did, too. What happens in the “meanwhile” that isn’t described in the story?

To get started, think about who is involved in the story in each scene. Who isn’t in that scene? What is happening “off camera”? Now write a scene that hasn’t been included in the book.

6. Get Inspired by a Color

Sometimes color can be very inspiring, and it’s a great way to work on imagery. You can use color as a springboard for a scene or even as the start of a poem.

Begin by picking a color. Look around at the things near you that are that color. If none of that seems inspiring, do a quick image search for the color. Pick an object or place featuring your chosen color and start writing. Try to incorporate all five senses in your descriptions.


7. Restrict Yourself to a Poetic Form

There are many different types of poetry, and each of them has specific rules to follow. While it may seem unlikely, being bound by a poetic form can actually be freeing and inspiring. Try some of the following:

  • Write a sonnet. Sonnets are 14 lines of iambic pentameter, and they have specific rhyme schemes. Take a look at sonnet examples for inspiration.
  • Try a villanelle. This very structured poem is made up of tercets, or three-line stanzas, that repeat various lines in a pattern. You can see villanelle examples to help you try this form.
  • Write a haiku. There are specific rules for writing a haiku, which has three lines of set syllables. This short poem is a great way to get creative.

8. Work on a Group Writing Project

Another fun creative writing exercise is to do a group writing project. You can brainstorm ideas with other writers, get energy from one another, and even critique each other’s work. Here are some fun group writing projects to try:

  • Make a poetry chapbook on a theme with each writer contributing a poem on the topic.
  • Write a story with each writer taking a scene.
  • Have one person create a plot of characters and another write the story.
  • Have each person write a mystery story without his or her name. Then exchange the stories and try to guess the author.

9. Set Up a Daily Writing Workout

Writing is like any other kind of exercise. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Set up a daily writing workout for yourself to hone your skills and get in practice. Successful writers don’t wait for inspiration; they just get to work.

You can use creative writing prompts to get started, or you can try free writing. Is free writing, you simply write down every thought that you have during a 15-minute session. Free writing can prove to be exceedingly helpful if you have writer's block or even if you just have trouble trying to figure out what to write and where to begin creatively.


Use Creative Writing Exercises in the Classroom

Creative writing exercises can help strengthen your skills and help you learn to write without waiting for a temperamental muse to visit. You can even try these exercises in the classroom or use creative writing lesson plans to help students have fun and improve their writing skills at the same time.