Get to Know Yourself with these Writing Therapy Exercises

By May 10, 2022July 31st, 2023Therapy
writing therapy exercises

Creative writing, like any art practice, can be used also as a therapy to help you heal your psyche. 

When it is used primarily for a non-artistic goal, the point of the writing becomes the process itself, the effect it has on you.

You may find yourself writing a piece you really like, but the emphasis is on creating bonds of connection with yourself. 

Here are a few Writing Therapy exercises that you may want to play around with. For the side of you that resonates to poetics, stories, and the wonder of language! 

  1. Freewrite

The simplest writing exercise is the freewrite. As the name implies, there is no rule to what is written, but there is a rule that whatever comes out, you keep flowing and do not stop writing for the entire time.

How to do it: 

Set a timer for seven minutes and write the entire time. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, sense, meaning, or beauty – if you keep writing the whole time, you have done it correctly. 

Why do this? 

Freewriting gets out the crusty goop. Imagine turning on a tap that hasn’t been used for a while – the first things that come out mainly just need to be blasted out of the way so the pure water can flow. 

  1. One Minute Story Starts

One Minute Story Starts are another way into the fountain of words within you, and are especially good for sneaking past the Inner Critic, because the short time box is too fast for judgment.

The result will be several writing starts (like plant starts). Not all of them will be great. But the point isn’t to make good writing but to get into the thick abundance of ideas that’s always within you.  

How to do it: 

Set your timer for 1 minute, and start writing a story.  When the timer goes off, start a completely new 1-minute story about something else entirely. Do this 12 times (12 minutes total). In 1 minute you will likely have a small paragraph of a couple of sentences, tops, so at the end of the 12 minutes you have 12 short paragraphs – the opening paragraphs of 12 different stories. 

Why do it? 

It’s important when doing any kind of creative practice to get past the self-editing urge (editing can happen later). The Inner Critic shouting judgments in our ears is what makes us get tight & end up with no ideas at all. To sneak past the Inner Critic, sometimes the best approach is to run and cannonball into the water.

  1. Lists

How to do it:

For each category I name below, list 12 things that belong in that category. Don’t overthink it, it’s ok if you have “Big Bird” and “hummingbird”, and “Larry Bird” in the bird category – that all works. The goal is to get 12 things down, as quickly as possible. 

  • 12 mammals
  • 12 plants
  • 12 inanimate objects from nature
  • 12 activities a person could to do
  • 12 colors
  • 12 shapes from nature (the shape of a fern, etc)
  • 12 very big things
  • 12 human-sized things
  • 12 very small things
  • 12 birds
  • 12 things in the sky
  • 12 moods a person could be in

Why do it?

Similar to Exercise 2, this is an exercise that focuses on quantity over quality. You are looking for a high number of distinct ideas – whether those ideas are good or not doesn’t matter.

  1. 777 Poetics 

How to do it:

Using your answers from exercise 3 (your lists) as inspiration – just the jumping off point – make up 7 similes, 7 metaphors, and 7 personifications.

Similes compare two things using like or as. “Life is like a box of chocolates.”

Metaphors equate two previously unrelated ideas by saying one thing is another thing. “It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.”

Personifications take human qualities and ascribe them to inanimate things. “The flower shyly turned her face to the sun.” 

Your lists can help provide an interesting mishmash of ideas. “A hummingbird (from the bird list) is like an asteroid (things in the sky list)”. 

Why do it?

The psyche loves poetics. Using them nudges us into dreamy, image-soaked creative reverie, a state that saturates us with depth and color. 

  1. All Together Now

How to do it:

Look over everything that you have written across all 4 previous exercises. With a highlighter, pull outlines, words, and portions of text that seem worth exploring further, and write these out on a new piece of paper or in a new document. 

The only criteria for choosing is if something is curious or interesting to you. With all your excerpts on a new page, see if you can come up with a new piece that integrates all or most of these selections. It can be a poem, song lyrics, a story, an essay – just let yourself weave your ideas together. 

Why do it? 

This is the stage when you get to enjoy all the weird, unexpected, delightful things you came up with. Integrating them into one piece is just another creative frame for thinking in a new way. 

Have fun!

If you or an important woman in your life are struggling with substance use or a history of trauma that continues to affect daily life, reach out to us today to learn more about our treatment programs. Call (866) 950-0648 to learn more. 

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