C reative writing exercises can help add a touch of personality to any writing. They can also make writing more fun.
This article includes 7 creative writing exercises:
1. Play with words
2. Hotwire your words
3. Find fascinating details
4. Write vivid imagery
5. Create movies with your words
6. Strengthen your metaphoric muscles
7. Harness the power of parallelism
8. Discover delight
8 Creative Writing Exercises
Let’s be honest …
A lot of business content is rather meh. It sounds boring. It lacks a human voice.
It feels like anyone in any marketing department could have written it.
How can you add a touch of personality?
Start by nurturing a sense of play.
When writers are having fun, they’ll connect with their readers more naturally. Readers will sense the fun in their writing.
Let’s go …
Creative writing exercise #1: Play with words
Settling for the first word that comes up in your mind?
That’s usually a word commonly used.
To add a splash of personality, try a slightly unusual or a more precise word; or play with sensory words.
This exercise works best for a single sentence, so:
- Choose a headline for a blog post, play with an email subject line, or rewrite one important sentence in an article.
- Use different words to rephrase your chosen line in as many ways you can—aim for at least a dozen variations.
Consulting a thesaurus is allowed.
Here’s an example—I’ve written several headline options for this post:
- Drab Business Content? Here’s How to Add a Splash of Fun and Personality
- Ho-Hum Content? Try These 7 Writing Exercises to Add Sparkle
- Lack of Personality? Try These 7 Fun Writing Exercises
- Boring Writing? Ignite Your Creativity With These 7 Exercises
- Dull Corporate Text? Here’s How to Seduce Readers With an Enchanting Writing Voice
- Meh Content? These 7 Writing Exercises Add Pizzazz and Personality
- Wishy-Washy Writing? Here’s How to Make Your Words Dazzle and Dance
Can you think of more variations?
Be warned: This exercise is quite addictive.
39 Ways to Write Deliciously Seductive Headlines (and Attract More Blog Readers) >>
Creative writing exercise #2: Hotwire your words
This exercise works especially well if you feel stuck in a wordy rut as it helps break through habitual word patterns.
We all follow habitual word patterns. Hikers roam. Shoppers stroll. A lion roars. A bird sings.
How can we break through such patterns?
Songwriter Jeff Tweedy suggests a 4-step creative exercise:
- Write a list of 10 verbs related to one topic (e.g., swimming).
- List 10 nouns related to a completely different topic (e.g., corporate management).
- Link each verb with one of the nouns.
- Write a paragraph or a poem using the verb and noun combinations.
The aim of this exercise is not to produce a beautiful text instantly. As Tweedy suggests, this exercise jump-starts your brain so “language and words have [your] full attention again.”
Try this writing exercise with nouns and verbs to hotwire your words >>
Creative writing exercise #3: Find fascinating details
This exercise helps you express your personality by using vivid details.
Why is this boring?
Because you can’t visualize such sentences. They’re too generic.
To make your writing more fascinating:
- Choose a statement for your About page or social media profile.
- Play with different details to add a splash of personality.
For instance, instead of suggesting I love cooking, I could write:
- She has spent years fine-tuning her signature dish: Beef Rendang—an Indonesian curry, slightly spicy, lightly sweetened, and amazingly fragrant.
- On a Saturday afternoon, you may find her in her steamy kitchen, grinding spices, chopping onions, and tasting her favorite curry with a smile on her face.
- Her perfect night out is staying in—cooking for her husband and one or two friends, chatting, and nipping a glass of wine.
Note how each sentence gives you a glimpse of personality? And how you can picture me in my kitchen?
How to write a short professional bio (with pizzazz!) >>
Creative writing exercise #4: Write vivid imagery
This is a quick 5-minute exercise in sensory writing.
Sensory language has the power to transport readers to a different world because we experience sensory words as if we’re actually hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, and feeling what’s going on.
Here’s what to do:
- Choose to describe your environment right now or a scene where you’ve been in the last 24 hours (choosing a scene further away in the past makes the exercise more difficult).
- Take 5 minutes to describe your chosen scene using at least two different senses. What do you see? What do you hear? Is there something you can touch or feel? What’s that smell? Are you tasting something?
As a writer, describing your surroundings can help ground you in the present. Plus by sharing your sensory description, you invite readers into your world. It’s as if they’re there with you.
Imagery examples: How to paint vivid pictures with only a few words >>
Creative writing exercise #5: Create movies with your words
The best writers direct mental movies in their readers’ minds.
They describe actions and sensory details so readers can experience the stories they’re reading.
Here’s how to practice:
- Choose a simple statement such as: She’s happy; he’s kind; they’re a rich family.
- Note down any actions or sensory details that demonstrate that statement is true.
For instance, how would you describe someone who’s tired? Perhaps she’s rubbing her eyes, yawning, or dropping all her shopping in the supermarket aisle.
As Anton Chekhov said:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
18 “show don’t tell” exercises: Turn bland writing into colorful stories >>
Creative writing exercise #6: Strengthen your metaphoric muscles
Metaphors are connections between two unrelated topics.
With a little practice and patience anyone can dream up metaphors.
Let’s give it a try, shall we?
- Pick an important point you want to make.
- Choose a completely different field—gardening, parenting, travelling, cooking, and sports are all popular fields for creating metaphors.
- Try to find comparisons at the same level—e.g., compare a process to a process, a thing to a thing, or a role to a role.
Let’s take the key point of this post as an example. The key point I’m making is that you can add personality to your writing by nurturing a sense of play.
One of my favorite areas to draw metaphors from is cooking. I could come up with a metaphor like this:
Imagine being a kid and you’re given permission to decorate a table full of cup cakes.
You’d play, right? One cup cake might be decorated with red M&Ms. Another gets chocolate shavings, or sprinkles, or little flags, or everything.
With writing, nurture a similar sense of experimentation. Try different words. Play with fascinating details. Dream up some metaphors. Have fun!
18 metaphor examples & why they work >>
Creative writing exercise #7: Harness the power of parallelism
Parallelism is when parts within a sentence or whole sentences follow the same pattern.
This creative writing technique helps communicate your message with power and style. Plus, it makes your writing easier to read as readers follow the pattern.
So-so writers use a lot of words to communicate little.
Good writers use fewer words to communicate a lot.
Parallelism can feel like a straightforward technique. But to condense information in such a simple format requires you to consider carefully:
- What are you contrasting with what?
- And what’s the difference between the two?
Parallelism helps communicate with power and rhythm, and it may even help sharpen your thinking.
8+ parallelism examples: How to communicate with punch and style
Creative writing exercise #8: Discover delight
Writing is not just about playing with words.
It’s also about paying attention.
When we direct our attention to the small beauties around us, we can find delight and joy everywhere. The abundance of green colors in the woods. The shapes of the clouds in the sky. The cheerful birdsong. The card received from a friend. The tulips received as a present. The smile of a passerby.
This exercise on discovering delight is inspired by the poet Ross Gay. A few years ago, he set himself a target to write a daily essay about a delight. For instance, Gay describes the delight of seeing two people carrying a sack of laundry together:
It at first seems to encourage a kind of staggering, as the uninitiated, or the impatient, will try to walk at his own pace, the bag twisting this way and that, whacking shins or skidding along the ground. But as we mostly do, feeling the sack, which has become a kind of tether between us, we modulate our pace, even our sway and saunter—the good and sole rhythms we might swear we live by—to the one on the other side of the sack.
As Gay writes, his essayettes emerged from “a practice of witnessing one’s delight, of being in and with one’s delight, daily, which actually requires vigilance. It also requires faith that delight will be with you daily, that you needn’t hoard it. No scarcity of delight.”
This is not just a useful writing exercise. Noticing small beauties and acts of kindness can fortify us and keep us grounded.
Try these 3 exercises to practice the art of noticing >>
Nurture your sense of play
As kids, we knew how to tell stories and draw pictures. Without worrying about results. Without worrying about what other people would think.
We got into a creative flow, just naturally.
As adults, we can rediscover that innocent creative flow.
But is your inner critic telling you you’re not creative enough?
Ask them to go out for a half-hour walk. Then, embrace your inner child and choose the exercise that appeals to you most.
Grab a drink, a sheet of paper and pen, and give yourself some time to play.
There’s no pressure. Results don’t matter.
Note: This post was originally published on 26 April 2016. It was updated and expanded on 9 August 2022.