Writing Exercises: Write Something Really Terrible

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At a young playwright’s festival once, one of the mentors gave us an assignment. We were all supposed to write the absolute worst 5-minute play we could. We all came up with 5 pages of completely melodramatic crap. We broke all of the rules of playwriting we had been taught. Not only were these plays hilarious, but they definitely helped to take the pressure off and ease the tension.

This is a great exercise because as writers, we sometimes tend to take ourselves a little too seriously (particularly in academic circles). We can be so focused on appearing to be “great writers” for all of our peers that we get so uptight and end up stifling the uniqueness of our own voices, our own styles.

So I say write the worst thing you can think of. If you write fiction, write an awful short story. If you write poetry, write a horrible, cliche poem. If you write plays, write an over dramatic short play. See how good you can be at writing badly. This exercise is a lot of fun, and I guarantee you will make yourself laugh. You may even want to share your work with others.

It will loosen you up. It takes away all of the pressure because it’s supposed to be bad. But when you are finished, you’ll find that it may have just helped you have a better understanding of the “rules” you are breaking. Maybe you’ll have a better understanding of how to craft exposition if you write a scene with horribly unnatural exposition. Maybe you will have a better understanding of the importance of specific imagery if you write a cliche, sentimental poem with no imagery about how sad you are.

So go ahead! See how bad of a writer you can be. It might help you to be a better one.

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