It's been ages since I offered a writing exercise--not for lack of desire, but because my life, tutoring, photography, and writing (big writing projects in the works that I can't tell you about just yet) haven't left me time. I want desperately to keep going with The Magpie's Pen, but the reality for now is that I cannot, so I'll toss some exercises in here from time to time.
Some of my favorite writing exercises are quick, five-minute ones you can do anywhere, anytime. I find that there's never an excuse for not writing when I can always find five minutes in my day to pull out my pen and writing notebook. I find some of my favorite raw material this way. Here's the instructions, followed by my own freewrite. If you give it a whirl, please let me know how it goes!
The Exercise: Find a photograph you took two years ago. Choose one that evokes a very particular memory. Study it for a minute or two, then open up your writing notebook (if you don't have one use whatever paper you have on hand, but then go out and find a notebook to make your very own just as soon as you possibly can!), set your watch/phone/clock/kitchen timer for five minutes and go. Don't stop or edit or worry about grammar. Just write what you remember about that photograph, that day, the mood, the light, the smells, sounds, and sights. If your mind leaps from the memory to something else, follow it. Just keep your pen moving until the five minutes are up.
My Photograph and Freewrite:
The feel of cold sand against the palms of your hands, the rush of wind between untucked shirt and skin, and then the wish for five more minutes of daylight. This must be what it feels like to die. You imagine there is never enough time for the search, treasure map in hand, pocketful of nothing but a washed and dried receipt, palimpsest of inked purchases, of wants and perceived needs--when all around you there are plates and bins and trays of time that you leave behind, never taste, never try. Your feet grow cold, shadows on the snow turn blue. From somewhere at the edge of the marsh comes a wild cry.
I'd love to hear about your freewrite. If you try this, feel free to share a favorite line in the comments. I promise to share more exercises very soon.