Warm-up exercises for approaching a blank page

“Write everyday if you can, no matter how awful you think it is. Just keep doing it.” – Margaret Atwood 

We all want to write pieces that are authentic, unique and recognisable, yet surprising. Ideation is crucial to the writing process, where harnessing our imagination to generate ideas could eventuate into a piece of writing. But where does one start?  

We know you’ve got plenty of ideas in that brilliant mind of yours just waiting to be inked on a blank page. So, here are some writing warm-up exercises to help you get started! 

Exercise 1: Word Lists 

The aim of a word list is to generate as many words as possible from a word prompt. 

  1. Make 3 columns on a page. 
  1. Decide on a word prompt, such as ‘home’, ‘difference’, ‘safe’ or ‘alone’ 
  1. Start a 30 second timer 
  1. In the first column, write as many words as possible associated with the prompt word. Stop when the timer goes off. 
  1. Pause. Now start a 1-minute timer 
  1. For each word in the first column, write 2 associated words across the page in the other 2 columns. For example, home > family > tree 

You should now have 3 lists filled with words that are ripe for turning into sentences. Feel free to keep going or change the timings.

Exercise 2: Free Writing  

Now that your heart is racing from furiously writing down words, set that timer again. This time, for 5 minutes. The aim is to write continuously and don’t stop to edit. 

  1. Circle 5 words from any of your three lists to use as prompts.  
  1. Start the timer and try to include each of the words as you go. They should spur you on when you run out of things to write. 
  1. Write ‘blah blah blah’ if you’re stuck until something comes to you. Don’t stop! 

Would you look at that! Blank page no more! Read through what you’ve written. Is there a sentence that has potential? Is there a phrase you like? Choose a sentence to begin your second session of free writing. 

More free writing prompts: 

  1. Write about a time when you felt like an outsider. 
  1. Describe the inner journey of a persona who feels different from those around them. 
  1. Explore the experience of finding an unexpected home or community to belong to. 
  1. Write about the impact of a bond or fleeting connection between two people. 
  1. Describe a place from your childhood where you felt a deep sense of belonging. 

Are you keen to submit a poem, short story or essay for the anthology? Or perhaps all three? Click here

Exercises adapted from Kate Grenville’s book, Writing from start to finish

Words by Shaan Lloyd