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My Favorite Writing Exercise (Especially When You Don't Have Any Ideas)

July 24, 2017

Daniel Rashid, author of Fenced, shares his favorite writing exercise.

I write a lot of sketch comedy. This is probably not very apparent from my 10-minute drama Fenced, published by YouthPLAYS, but I started doing sketch comedy in high school, continued in college, and now (a year and a half out of college), I’ve recently started a Sketch Comedy Channel called Giggle Break. If you’re curious about my work, you can find Giggle Break at <> or <>.
But I’m not here to advertise my work! I’m here to share a very simple writing exercise I’ve come to know and love. If you’re like me, some days the creative juices are flowing, while other days…not so much. And those “not so much” days are the WORST, especially when you’re trying to come up with new ideas (as you constantly are when you do sketch comedy). So what do I do?
Write down 20 bad ideas in 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter if all you can come up with is “Mr. Poop: Costco employee of the month.” WRITE IT DOWN! What’s wonderful about this exercise is that it takes all the pressure off of trying to come up with a “good” idea. It gets you out of your head and onto the page. And the time restriction forces you to move quickly! There’s no lingering on the perfect wording, you just gotta write.
And when the clock stops, you stop. Then you get to read your bad ideas back! (NOTE: This exercise is best done in a group so you can all laugh at each other's messed-up bad ideas that found their way to the page.) But the beautiful thing is, most of the time you actually wrote down three or four decent ideas—and maybe even a GOOD idea! Some of my best sketches have come from this exercise. And although I think this exercise particularly lends itself to sketch comedy (because oftentimes the most absurd ideas are the funniest), I would say it’s worth doing even if you’re trying to come up with ideas for full-length dramas.
And even if you really only came up with 20 bad ideas that should never see the light of day (which I highly doubt—you ought to tell them to someone else before you declare that they’re all trash), the most important thing is that you sat down and actually wrote something. You stopped talking about doing something and you just DID IT. Now you can go to sleep and tell yourself “Today, I was a writer.” Who cares if the best thing you wrote was “Mr. Poop: Costco employee of the month”!?

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