People exercise for a variety of reasons. They sometimes exercise simply to exercise, but they usually have an end goal, a purpose, even if it’s only to be seen by others. Others exercise for health reasons. Still others exercise in order to perform better in a sport. Other people exercise because they want to improve in a specific area, such as weightlifting or cardio.
Writing exercises aren’t too different. A writing exercise simply can be a writing exercise, but it doesn’t have to be. It can serve a purpose. It can help to accomplish an end goal. It can be fun.
Even if an exercise doesn’t fulfill a particular purpose or goal, all is not lost. Some writers might suggest that it is and argue that exercises serve no real benefit to the writing life. I’m not one of those writers. I believe that every piece of writing – no matter how crappy – leads to the next piece of writing. Without those failed poems, posts, or other writings, it’s impossible to move onto the next work. Failure is necessary and healthy.
I also take joy in setting constraints. I like to feel the tension that occurs between freedom and requirements and to play in that space. I like to feel resistance. I like to know that I’m not stuck in a particular vein of writing. I can change my style or my stance when required or desired. I can enrich my writing by exploring and working in other styles. I can become a better writer and a better poet by not being content with my current abilities and by exercising those abilities.
What do you think about writing exercises? Are they a part of your writing life?