Nonfiction Writing exercises

Words of wisdom

Everyone enjoys, yet also sometimes despises, giving and receiving advice from family and friends. We usually do so verbally, but the goal of this exercise is to write our words of wisdom. You can give general advice, or choose a specific topic to give advice about, such as friendship, marriage or parenting. You can also choose to write the advice for a particular person or for anyone.

This writing exercise requires bulleted sentences rather than extended prose. So, you will be working to find the correct words that you want to use in order to accurately express your advice and to find ways to summarize your ideas. You can write out thoughts, and then work to summarize into simple sentences.

Version 1 (general):
1. If you have a “motto” or “words to live by” what are they? What are some of your favorite sayings? What are your “words of wisdom” that people should always remember?
2. Explain why these “words of wisdom” so important to you.

Version 2 (specific person):
1. Choose a person for whom you want to give advice. Write down his or her name, a little bit of information about the person, and what type of advice you want to give. Try to be as specific as possible about what type of advice you want to give. For example: “I want to write advice to my niece who is getting married in four weeks. I want to give her advice about how to have a long, successful marriage.” Take the time to write a list of people and types of advice then choose one.
2. What three pieces of advice do you have for that individual? First, jot down as many ideas as possible, and then look at list to see what three themes arise. From these ideas, write your three pieces of advice.
3. What are three things you do not advise them to do? Again, jot down your ideas, then look at list to find themes, and then work into three things you do not advise them to do.
4. Re-read your previous responses (advice and what you don’t advise). How do they fit together? Is there an overall theme that arises? If so, what is it? What are your “words of wisdom”?

Nonfiction Writing exercises

Life before…air conditioning

This exercise was created by Lane Filler, at the time a columnist for the Spartanburg Herald Journal. Today he is a Newsday columnist.

As temperatures soar throughout much of the U.S. and our air conditioners crank out that awesome cold air providing a beautiful 72 degree temperatures indoors, it is interesting to reminisce…

Remember back to a time when you were a child on a HOT day without any air conditioning. What did you do to beat the heat? What did you enjoy about those days? Try to remember and describe not only your actions, but your feelings too.

Nonfiction Writing exercises

Writing Exercise: Flashbulb Memories

On the 1 year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings and Nelson Mandela’s funeral… this is an interesting writing exercise to do!

When you can close your eyes and picture yourself back in a moment as if it just occurred (regardless of how long ago it really happened) it is called a “flashbulb memory”. Cognitive psychologists named it that for the memory’s vivid, picture-like quality. They are usually memories of highly emotional events. When you recall a flashbulb memory you remember all the sensations and emotions associated with the memory. Common flashbulb memories are of historical events such as JFK’s assassination or 9/11. They can also be personal events, such as one’s wedding day or birth of a child.

Describe one of your own flashbulb memories. Describe the event. What is your memory of the event? What do you remember seeing, hearing, and feeling? What were your emotions and thoughts about the event at the time? Writing about this memory will be an interesting read for family, friends and even yourself in the future. So you may want to do this exercise several times for all the important historical world events so that you and others can be reminded of where you were and how you felt on that day.

Please tell us what you think about this exercise below. What historical or personal flashbulb memory did you choose to write about?