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So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 4 (An Exercise)

As is the case with most things that I say, this is stolen. But this isn’t stolen from another writer, this is stolen (and adapted) from a music video/film guy friend.

If you want to be a writer (professionally and not just as a hobbyist), here’s a litmus test for your dedication. Can you get up early and write a short creative sketch of the sunrise (oh, say, 250 wds)? Then can you do it again tomorrow? And the next day? Can you write 30 descriptive sketches of 30 consecutive sunrises? The simple exercise in discipline is hard enough, and it will tell you just how much you actually want to write. But on top of that, the writing component is quite difficult as well. How do you see the sunrise in a new way every morning? How do you express it in a new way? Can you get through the verbal cliche-flailing, and actually create 30 distinct scenes?

Adapt the exercise if you want. Stand in the same place every night and try to sketch 30 consecutive midnights. I have one student doing daily sketches of the same glass of wine. If you do try to do this (no matter how good you might already be), you will learn a lot about yourself as a writer, and you’ll have to move in new ways through the English language. Get off the worn footpaths of description. Kick through walls. Climb fences. Trespass.


  1. at
    May 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I’ll try it… sounds like it would be good practice… Thank you so much for the advice… How long did it take you to write 100 cupboards?

  2. at
    John R. Ahern
    May 11, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Something to add to the morning routine. And, also, I heard from someone that you have some helpful tips about speed reading. That certainly would come in handy in the writing process, since, as you pointed out, it’s divided into reading tons and writing tons. Can I throw that into the requests bin? (Is there a requests bin?)

  3. at
    Lauren Phillips
    May 14, 2009 at 9:41 am

    That is some excellent advise. I am going to have to try it.
    I once went and sat out on my porch and tried to white about everything that was happening on one small part of decking. I took up about ten pages in my notebook and I didn’t even get all that happened because it was changing every second. (Maybe I should have had a time limit.)

  4. at
    Matt J.
    May 14, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for the idea. It’s like a musician getting up early to work on scales.
    I’m really down with the 30 days of wine glass study too. Yeah!

  5. at
    Robert Treskillard
    May 16, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Will your next book be called “30 Sunrises”?

    Seriously, this sounds like a valuable exercise, especially because every book seems to have some form of a cliche description of the sun, mine probably included.

  6. at
    May 18, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Tough question. Depends on how you slice it. The very first draft took something like 5-6 months, but it was mostly rewritten later.

    Ha. No. No tips here on speed reading, though I’ve already talked about bailing out on books early (something I had to learn how to do).

    I’ve thought about 30 Sunrises as a collection of poems. Which would be great in theory and bad when I wrote them.



  7. at
    May 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I think that I would rather work on dialogue (lazy me: just wanting the fun stuff) and work with those because there are too many excellent descriptive writers out there. Recently, I perused a book where half, no jest, of the book was descriptions. Needless to remark, I have shied away from long descriptive passages since the reading of that fateful tome.

    And do we not also have the classic example of Anne (of Green Gables) who was constantly advised to drop the “flowery” descriptions if she wanted to suceed?

  8. at
    May 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Hiya Ophelia,

    Dialog. Yes, dialog. That’s a whole different and terrific game. But descriptive abilities are just as necessary for fiction writers (not merely essayists and ye olde prose sketch-artists). I’ll hit you with some dialog exercises soon. And I’m willing to admit (in advance), that they will almost certainly be more fun.



  9. at
    February 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I love the kick through walls and
    climb fences.Yeah, Trespass too.

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  1. By N. D. Wilson on Writing « For His Renown on June 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

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