Advice, Block, Craft, Doubt, Prompt, Tips, Writing

Keep the pen moving

My friend and fellow writer Cristina Trapani-Scott has begun a series she calls Twelve Days of Writing. In her first entry, she told how she taught her creative writing students to get past the inner voice that tells them they can’t write. We all fight that voice from time to time.

Cristina started her students with a prompt and told them to write for ten minutes. The secret, she says, is to keep the pen moving. Chances are you will be surprised that you’ve come up with at least a few good nuggets, even if you veered away from the prompt.

I know a lot of you write flash fiction, often from prompts, but that’s not a habit I’ve developed. I suppose I should at least try this ten-minute exercise. I tend to fight regimentation far more than is good for me. I don’t think a little discipline will kill my creativity. It might just preserve my sanity.

I suggest you check out Cristina’s first lesson and return for the next eleven.

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19 thoughts on “Keep the pen moving”

  1. Maybe I’m thick but I don’t get this exercise, I mean, what do you write for 10 minutes? Because if I wrote for 10 minutes right now, I can guarantee you that I’d not write anything remotely creative because I’m not inspired, nor am I in the mood to write and I’m stressed out on top of it. I can only write when I am in the right mood. Maybe it’s just me…


    1. Well, Cristina apparently used this exercise with a prompt: a word, a visual, etc. to start the the flow of words. But I’ve just been sitting down and listening to what’s on my mind and starting with that. I’m not really doing this exercise expecting some piece of publishable fiction. I’m doing it more as a way to open the door to my subconscious, which MIGHT result in a topic for a piece of fiction, but even if it doesn’t, i has given me an insight into what’s holding me back in my writing. So far, about mid-way through, I surprise myself by striking a vein, getting at a truth I was shying away from. In that sense, I think being stressed out is a perfect time to try this exercise. You might just release some of that stress.


  2. Exercises like this are what allowed me to start writing fiction in earnest. For twenty years, I listened to the voices that told me everything I put on paper should be perfect. I still listen but not always. Creativity is messy; the moment’s perfect concept might hide within a page of scribbles.

    Freewriting–keeping the pen moving–is an excellent tool to improve creativity and break through a block, and it’s what I’ll do later today to (hopefully) find a path between two scenes.


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