The Importance of Exercise

Time to work with some weights.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?


  1. I *love* writing exercises. I’m constantly giving myself (and others) writing exercises. I like both open-ended exercises (write for 10 minutes about happy hour) and awkwardly constrained exercises (start a story with “I’m the type of guy” that contains a lobster crawling around in the living room). OK. My examples were quite bad. But I just think an exercise is a great way to give a writer something to hang on to, a little bit of focus, it takes the pressure off in a way.
    But I’m also a big about never feeling like you have to follow the rules of the exercise if you happen to be on a roll. My take is that a writing exercise is just a gimmick to get some writing on the page.

    •  @yuvizalkow I liked your examples, but, then again, I’m the person who takes the challenge to write about polar bears seriously (See yesterday’s post.). 
      I’d agree with being free to break the rules of the exercise, too. I don’t think I felt free to do that when the exercises were given in workshop, but, on the whole, I agree. The writing can become too rigid if the rules are followed to the letter.
      Have you ever had a “wild” writing exercise? One of my poetry professors assigned a “wild” exercise once per semester. The goal was to write as differently as possible from our usual style. Another semester, we – the students – had to develop exercises based on poets who wrote prior to 1890. We developed some good exercises. I still have all the exercises so that I can revisit them every so often.

      • @Erin F. I love the idea of a wild exercise! Never formally done it, but I almost can say that my second novel came from a wild-like exercise that I went too far with…

        •  @yuvizalkow  I’ll have to read your first and second novel so that I can make an accurate judgment.
          I wrote a mock epic poem for my wild poem. It wasn’t as long as an epic poem, of course, but it was long for me. Nobody recognized the lines as being mine. 🙂

  2. Hmm…I don’t know that I engage in too many structured writing exercises but I can’t say that I am opposed to them either. I am a strong believer in practicing like crazy so…

    •  @TheJackB …so you exercise with or without structure. I think that’s what happens when writing becomes a part of your life and of who you are. 
      Somehow, I think any exercise you decided to set for yourself or another person would be a lot of fun.


  1. […] another way: manage your day, or your day will manage you. Set aside time for your writing. Plan for unexpected emergencies by creating buffers around your work time and scheduled projects. […]