On Writing Exercises

Working on this book has brought me back around to some of the texts that were used in the numerous writing classes I took during college. I have kept the notebooks and journals that are full of my scribblings and writing exercises from 2003 and onward and it’s really nice to be able to look back and see some of the ideas that I had then. Some of them are still alive, some things that I work on now reflect ideas that I originally came up with almost 10 years ago. They have grown and changed, but it’s very interesting to see the ones that remain–really the stories that insist on getting out.

In my favorite Moleskine, the one I still write in because it’s not yet full, I found a list that I’d written in 2005–a writing exercise from one of my first creative writing classes. I had a difficult time remembering what the list was exactly, luckily though I had a page number scrawled across the top of the page. Recalling the book I used at the time, I went to the study and pulled it off the shelf that houses all my books on writing. Thumbing through the pages, I found the particular exercise I had been assigned and then I remembered.

My list is a string of essay titles with the conventional way of titling them: “On _______.” This was a very cathartic exercise for me and I found that it opened up my mind to some very different possibilities. The instructions were to make a list of titles according to the following parameters: 6 things you might like to write about and that you feel confident you know something about, 6 subjects you would not want to write about and would not show anybody if you did (I dealt with more of the latter in my list), 6 titles in which the preposition “on” could be a pun, and 6 titles dealing with subjects about which you know “nothing at all.”

It’s a great exercise and makes you think a lot more than you might imagine. To all my writer friends, if you decide to do it, please leave a link!

I present you with my list. Without page breaks and with the groups out of order so you can try to guess which things are which for me, if you like. Hint: Not all of my groups had 6 titles. Enjoy this tiny peek into my psyche.


On an Elephant
On Stage
On Cue
On Foot
On Buddhism
On Chinese Cooking
On the History of Belgium
On the Royal Family of Monaco
On Being a Queen
On Long-Distance Relationships 
On Leaving
On a Broken Heart
On Forgiving
On Letting Go
On a New Home
On Stagnating
On Finally Getting Kissed
On Being in Love With Him
On My Trip to Scotland
On Finding Home
On Letting Him Go
On Keying Cars

5 Replies to “On Writing Exercises”

  1. Elizabeth, THANK YOU for your writing lists. I’ve been working hard on a guest post today(woohoo!) but I seriously need a break from “productive” writing. Time to get out the imagination and see what transpires… 🙂 (Will keep you posted if this makes it to blog land.) Again, thanks for the inspiration!

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