Ravyn Freewrites: So What’s My Waterfall?

One of the things I remember about being a kid was being utterly fascinated by movies in which the process of training was a major plot element—particularly odd given that many of those are sports movies and, aside from a four-year fling with soccer, I was never much of a sports person. (Whether this had anything to do with my eventual source of employment I hesitate to guess.) But either way, it means that training images resonate with me—that I understand the whole mess of cultural baggage that we get just from the image of someone meditating under a waterfall.

That brought me to a question: What is the writer’s (or the descriptive roleplayer’s) equivalent? Just about everybody knows what dueling on raised posts, practicing passes, square-bashing (or if you prefer, marching practice), carefully stepping through a choreographed routine, or beating the stuffing out of a practice dummy connotes, and even if they don’t agree with the pursuit, they can be impressed at the dedication of the person who’s making a habit of doing it. Writers don’t really have that, in the same instantly recognizable way, and while I’ve seen a lot of writing exercises out there, I’ve never really seen a full training regimen. I want, in my own peculiar way, to have a regimen like that—and maybe someday to pass it on to one or more someone elses. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s done that with a more intellectual pursuit; computer programmers have katas, after all.

The problem with writing-ish sorts of exercises is that we can’t really do the exact same thing over and over; instead of creating muscle memory, it just gives us perpetual shortcuts. The job of a writer, after all, is to create something new. But doing multiple variations on the same thing—that might work.

There’s also the question of what one does alone. Back when I was in college, and the first summer thereafter, I did writing exercises with one of my GMs; I’ve had other partners, but not to the same extent, and I haven’t met up with anyone with whom I had the same combination of factors (in our case, mutual breadth of mutually separate work with which the other is sufficiently familiar to call out and judge prompts, as both of us were in each other’s large-cast-of-characters games).

I can think of a number of possibilities. One might try voice exercises, writing the same thing in multiple different voices. Or adapting a narrative into another setting entirely (this I can probably do solo with the logs from my game or the ones I’ve been in; that should keep me busy for quite a while, and amuse my friends in the process). Or any of the ridiculous number of characterization exercises I’ve been toying with on this site. I know I have one book that swears by three pages of freewriting in the morning (I did that for a while, sort of, though between the blog posts and the size of my handwriting I figured one side of a sheet of unlined paper was good enough), and I’ve seen others that just say settle down and write. And, of course, one can’t only devote themselves to writing training, as that’s just one big excuse to never actually get anything done.

So my mission, in my copious (ha, ha) free time? Find myself some decent waterfalls.

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