Admit It: You’ve at Least Thought of Writing a Book…

May 14, 2013

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Admit it: you’ve at least thought of writing a book.

Maybe not a book – maybe a review, an Op-Ed piece, a short story, a play, an essay on things that you’ve learned, an essay on things that you haven’t learned, the perfect letter expressing what you really think of someone.

The list goes on.

Unfortunately, the only answer to writing is – I know how irritating this is to hear and I can’t believe I’m one of the people who’s about to put it into words – to write.

It’s simple and complex and frustrating and true.

In my current playwriting workshop with the effervescent Alex Haber at McGill’s Writing Centre, we were given a fun exercise at the beginning of class.

I, in turn, tried it with my students and the stories that erupted were mind-blowing – particularly from those who would never call themselves writers.

Try this out and see what comes out: it might help you access something that’s been a little hard to get to in the past.

• List 10 things you’ve lost in your life (anything from keys to mind to patience): GO (3 mins. No longer)
• List 10 things you should have learned by now: GO (3 mins).
• Look at these two lists and pick ONE item to free-write about for four minutes: GO.
• Is there a story in there? I assume so.
• Even if it’s ‘just’ scribbling – the point is to show you how many stories we have stored up inside at a moment’s notice.

I also suggest reading:

• Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird her much-adored creative, funny and generous gathering of advice on writing.
• Stephen King’s On Writing – has nothing to do with whether you like him as a writer or not – this book contains solid writing advice. The man does not scream blocked writer, that’s for sure.
• Nathalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

I’ll be posting more great writing exercises as this adventure continues.

Thank you for the continued support, everyone: it is so very much appreciated.


  1. I love this exercise and look forward to reading more. I have also added the books to my long list of “books to read!” I will have to remember this for writing workshop this fall when I am back teaching.

  2. I also really enjoyed “If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland. I found it via Guy Kawasaki who claims it’s one of his ten favourite books and I can see why.

    Can’t wait to try your writing exercises (just as soon as my two kids give me some time to write again…!).

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