Living Words Program

Creative Writing Exercises

PLEASE VISIT OUR NEW WEBSITE at www.livingwordsprogram.com for all of our writing exercises!

There are so many fun and different types of creative writing exercises. Below you will find descriptions and explanations for how-to implement these exercises. Under the "Getting Started" tab (above) you can find information about the general format of workshops and the below exercises. We hope that you find this information helpful. Please feel free to give us feedback on any of them or offer your own variations on them at livingwordsprogram@wofford.edu.

What's with All These Exercises? 

By Lauren Holland

Each individual experiences his or her writing in his or her own way, and it is our experience that using one’s writing as an emotional outlet comes naturally.  Creative expression is an innate talent.  However, we all get “rusty” if we don’t use that talent.

That’s why we provide these writing prompts!  Our prompts, exercises and activities are designed to help get participants back in practice and to help them move forward with their creative writing.

In some cases, you might need to tailor the exercises posted here to fit your group’s needs.   You are welcome to do this yourself or you can contact us and we will help you.

Whether you change the exercises or use them as we present them, we would appreciate hearing from you so that we can assess their effectiveness.

And, of course, if you come up with a whole other exercise on your own please go to the survey tab above and click "new writing activity" and fill out the form so we can learn about it.

"What did you do to stay cool before air conditioning?" 

As this was the first workshop in the series, we wanted to be sure to help people get to know each other, as well as give them a clear idea of what to expect for the rest of the 10 weeks, so icebreakers lasted longer than usual for most exercises.

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself and give the group basic information about the Living Words workshop (assuming it is the first workshop in your series).

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

Give the participants (including the guest writer) the opportunity to meet each other through an icebreaker. Use compelling questions derived from the Ungame, which is a game created by Rhea Zakich.

Pass around a few of the questions on index cards for every participant to look through and choose to answer one that they like. Questions may include: “Would you ever go skydiving?” and “How do you feel about hitch-hiking?” Have each participant choose a question, give a little information about him- or herself, and answered the question.

*Note that this icebreaker allows people the opportunity to talk, to share, to reminisce, to make a decision, to take a stance, among other things.  These mostly outward actions prepare the participants for the writing that will follow.

Writer introduces himself and the topic (3-4 minutes)

Have your writer introduce the writing activity by discussing how hot it is now-a-days, but say that perhaps he or she has a sneaking suspicion that the participants know better about being hot because they lived in a time without air conditioning. This leads into the prompt, which is, “What did you do to stay cool before air conditioning?” Have the prompt also written on the board for participants to refer to throughout the writing process.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have your writer mingle with participants as they write and help individuals write if they are not able to. As participants write, expect people to share stories with one another. Writing should last about 10 minutes, giving enough time to write but ending before participants become idle.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

Prompt sharing by saying, “Who has something they would like to share?” and complement people as they share. This encourages individuals to share their writing by framing it as a comfortable and welcoming thing to do.

*You might find that not only will people share what they wrote, but that it will also spark other interests and questions that participants will share stories about. We found that allowing individuals the freedom to do this and not limiting conversation in any way worked very well.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank everyone, including the guest writer, for coming and leave things on a positive note.

*Like our mediator, you might want to spark participants’ interests for what is to come but telling them of other types of writers that will come. If it is the first session, we suggest inviting the participants to leave their journals with the facilitators so that they do not have to remember to bring them back every week. Also, invite participants to write “private” on their journal if they do not want the facilitators to read them.

  Download a PDF of this exercise to print out here: What did you do to stay cool before air conditioning.pdf

"Everyone's an Expert on Something" 

 Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce the writer. The writer should tell participants a little bit about himself and his interests. Have him give some light-hearted commentary on himself. Our writer gave light-hearted commentary on diet, food he misses, and food he just can’t get enough of which led into the icebreaker. Depending on what commentary your writer chooses to use, you might adjust the icebreaker to fit it accordingly! 

 Icebreakers (5-10 minutes)

For the icebreaker, participants  went around the room and discussed what food they just can’t get enough of. For some, it was peanut butter, for others it was coffee. We all have something we just can’t get enough of!

 Also, we all have something that we’re good at, which related to the theme of the writing session.

 Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The writer introduced the theme of the session by paraphrasing Will Rogers and saying, “We’re all ignorant but only on different subjects. On the same note, all of us are an expert in a bunch of things, so instead of discounting our knowledge, let’s think about something we’re good at.”

 Maybe you’re great at Jeopardy; maybe you’re a good listener or just a good person in general! For this prompt, there was no right or wrong answer.  Have your mediator write the prompt on the board for the participants to refer to. It should read:  “Everyone is an expert on something. What are you good at?" 

Writing: Part 1- Writing a list of things he or she is good at (5-10 minutes)

Have the mediator invite the participants to open their notebooks and write a list of things they are (or were at one time) good at. The directions are simple; just jot down some ideas—a list—of things to be expanded upon later.

 Sharing (10 minutes)

Participants should share some of the things they feel they are good at. Responses might range from being a good parent to being good wood refinisher.

 Part 2- Picking one response from the list and writing a story about it (5 minutes)

For the second part of the writing exercise, have your writer invite participants to pick one of the things they have written about and write a story about it. Have the mediator tell the participants that “a story informs and entertains”. That way, participants are invited to show how they are good at something but also entertain the audience with a story.

 Sharing Part II (5-10 minutes)

Participants should write their stories and be invited to share them as well as revisit them throughout the week or expand upon them in their own time.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the moderator thank everyone, including the guest writer, and also tell participants what to expect for the next session.

Download a PDF of this exercise to print out for your own group here: Everyone's an Expert on Something.pdf

"Two People Seen From Afar" by Jeff VanderMeer

 Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce the writer. The writer should tell participants a little bit about himself and his interests.

 Icebreakers (5-10 minutes)

For the icebreaker, have the participants go around the room and describe their favorite vacation or favorite destination.

 Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The writer should introduce the theme of the session by saying something about the beach and seeing other people at a distance on the beach. Then, the writer should introduce the first prompt by asking the participants to use their imagination and think of the scenario:

Prompt #1: Two people are walking on the beach. You see them from afar.

Then, have the writer ask the participants to write down what the two people from afar are saying just from their body language. (In other words, don’t use any dialogue!)

Have the mediator write prompt #1 on the board.

Writing: Part I (5-10 minutes)

Have participants write what the two people from afar are saying by writing about their body language.

Writing: Part II (5-10 minutes)

Have participants exchange the scenes written above with another participant.  Have the participant read the scene to him- or herself. Then, write the same scene (two people walking on the beach as described by the other participant), but this time write the scene all in dialogue with no description.

 Sharing Part II (5-10 minutes)

Participants should be invited to share their stories as well as revisit them throughout the week or expand upon them in their own time.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the moderator thank everyone, including the guest writer, and also tell participants what to expect for the next session.

 Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: Two People Seen From Afar.pdf

"Words of Wisdom" 

  Words of Wisdom Writing Exercise: By Kara Bopp

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce the writer. The writer should tell participants a little bit about himself and his interests. Have him or her give the following information about writing activity before beginning:

Everyone enjoys, yet also despises, giving and receiving advice from family and friends. We usually do so verbally, but today we will write down our words of wisdom. We will start with the theme of words of wisdom by sharing one piece of advice that you are happy you received sometime in your life OR a piece of advice that you wish you had received.

 Icebreakers (5-10 minutes)

For the icebreaker, participants should discuss one piece of advice that they are happy they have received during their lifetime or a piece of advice that they wish they had received but did not.  

 Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

Have the writer tell participants that each of them should choose a topic that they want to give advice about, such as friendship, marriage, parenting, etc.) and a particular person to whom they want to give that advice.

Have the writer or mediator tell the participants that this writing exercise requires them to write sentences rather than extended prose. So, they will be working to find the correct words that you want to use in order to express your advice and to find ways to summarize their ideas.

Writing

Use the following order for the activity: 

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. (5min)

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. (5min)

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. (5min)

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”? (5min)

(Time permitting with #4 the following questions can also be added.)

5.     If you have a "motto" or "words to live by" what are they? Is it consistent with your advice?  What are some of your favorite sayings?

Take time to allow the group to share responses for each of the parts with the other members of the group. (5min)

Sharing (10-15 minutes)

Take time to allow the group to share responses for each of the parts with the other members of the group.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the moderator thank everyone, including the guest writer, and also tell participants what to expect for the next session.

 Download a PDF of this writing activity to print off and share with your own group here: Words of Wisdom.pdf

"Our Basket of Stuff" 

 Introduction: (5 minutes)

Have the workshop moderator introduce the writer and give a introduction about him-or herself.

Icebreaker: (5 minutes)

For the icebreaker, pass around a half dollar coin. First, have the guest writer hold the half dollar coin in hand and say,  “If you had had this half dollar when you were younger, what would you have bought with it?” Responses will range depending on the time the participant grew up in.

*The clarity, time, and pace of the icebreaker worked very well. This icebreaker, consisting of one object and asking for one response, is brief yet still allows for storytelling.

Writer introduces the topic (about 5 minutes)

Have the writer introduce the theme of the session by saying, “For the next part of today’s writing exercise, we’re going to distribute these baskets around the room”. Pass around three baskets, each filled with a variety of small items.  Items might consist of trinkets such as a model car, paintbrush, candy, playing card, cow bell, small teddy bear, or a comic book.

 

Basket of Stuff Pic

 Have the moderator for the day’s session add that the participants should “sift through the baskets and find a trinket that you can relate to. Take that piece, and then start thinking about a story relating to it. It can be a memory or a story that you’ve totally made up. It can be happy, sad, funny, even quirky or weird.”

Then write the following instructions on the board:

“ Find an object. Tell a story about it.”

* It was important to note that the stories did not have to be a memory or something that participants had to reminisce about. Participants were invited to make up their own story about the object. You may even have the moderator ask, “if the object spoke to you, what would it tell you?”

Writing (about 10 minutes)

Once the participants choose one or two objects, have them write their stories for the following ten minutes. Allow enough time for them to write, but not enough to become idle.

Sharing (about 10 minutes)

When some participants finish, have the writer interject “I know that there are a couple of you putting last minute touches on your story, but if you don’t mind we’re going to go ahead and start sharing the stories that we’re so anxious to hear.”

Have the writer give instructions for sharing by saying, “there are two things I’d like you to do (1) hold up and show the item or items you chose and then (2) share your story or a portion of that story with us.”

Have the participants share their stories. Some may read straight from their journals while others may use their writings as a prompt for verbal paraphrasing or elaboration.

After each story, have the writer complement the story and thank the participant for sharing. Participants will be encouraged by simple statements like, “Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed that story very much.” Have the writer conclude sharing by saying,  “Thank you. It’s interesting to see how the things that are around us every day bring up all these memories and stories.”

Thanks / Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank everyone, including the guest writer, and tell everyone what to look forward to the next week. 

 Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own group here: Our Basket of Stuff.pdf

"Songwriting"

* This exercise involves a guest songwriter who is able to play (impromptu) the songs that the participants make up on the guitar!

Introduction: (5 minutes)

 Have the workshop moderator introduce the guest songwriter. The songwriter may choose to give a little background on his or her interest in music and songwriting.

Icebreaker: (15 minutes)

Have the songwriter introduce the icebreaker, which should be written on the board. It should read:

When we get to (fill in a place) this is what we’ll see:

We’ll see lots of (fill in thing 1) and (thing 2).

When we get to (same place as above) we’ll have lots of fun,

So won’t you come along with me?

 

Have each participant think of his or her own place and two things to fill in. Then, go around the room and share. Have the songwriter create the music and have the participants sing along!  

Writer introduces the topic (about 5 minutes):

*After the icebreaker, you may suggest that the guest songwriter play a song and tell a story about it. This will help get participants in the mode of song and songwriting.

Have the guest songwriter introduce the topic by telling the participants that they will be writing songs. Then, either the moderator or guest songwriter should tell participants that the exercise will consist of writing a four line song. Then, the participants then will get to try and stump the musician and try to get him to make the lines into a song.

Have the moderator tell the participants that their song could be happy, funny, sad, weird, or make no sense at all. It could include sounds and if they were feeling generous to the musician could try and make the first and second and the third and fourth lines rhyme. The moderator may also suggests that the participants flip back through their notebooks and get ideas from any of their previous writings. You may also find that reading a quick sample that the moderator has written help participants begin the writing process.

Writing (about 5-10 minutes)

Writing should not take too long for this exercise, since it only consists of creating four lines. Some participants may choose to make the lines rhyme and others choose to create more than one song.

*This exercise is very representative of the creative writing nature of Living Words. Participants were creating stories/lyrics and not simply writing about past events in their lives.

Sharing (about 25 minutes)

After 5 or 10 minutes of writing, have the writer invite participants to share what they have written. Have the songwriter read what the participant has written and turn it into a song.

You may find that even after participants have shared his or her writing sample as a song, each generally will continue writing! Some might write a second verse or a new song all together after their original song has been shared.

Thanks/Goodbye (2-3 minutes)

Have the songwriter thank all the participants for sharing their writing and making music. Your songwriter may choose to play one last song that the participants may remember the words to.

The moderator should thank everyone, including the songwriter, and tell participants what to look forward to next week. 

 Download a PDF of this exercise to print off and use in your own Living Words group here: Songwriting Exercise.pdf

"Finding Your 'Happy Place' " 

 By Beth Brown 

The goal of the workshop is to create/remember a safe, happy environment to use in focusing when life gets stressful.

Structure of the session

Introduction: (5 minutes)

Have the moderator introduce the writer. The writer should begin by talking briefly about how we all have stress, and one way to deal with that stress is going to our “happy place”. Ask participants if they have ever heard the saying “I’m going to my happy place”. While it is usually said as a joke, it works! Have the writer tell participants that he/she has realized that lately that she needs to use the outlet of his/her “happy place” in her life and wondered if others do, too. Then, have them tell the participants that today they are going to find that place.

* It is important to not focus on the “stress” part of the exercise too much. While a “happy place” is something to turn to in times of stress, the exercise itself is meant to be happy, peaceful, and uplifting!

Icebreaker: (15 minutes)

Have the writer lead participants through a focusing exercise. With calming, classical music playing softly in the background, have your writer lead the participants through the following focusing exercise:

“We’re going to start in the quiet this morning.  Everyone close your eyes.  We are going to imagine the happiest place on earth – FOR YOU.  This can be a real place or an imaginary one.  I will walk you through it.  First, imagine that you are in a blank place.  There’s nothing there.  It’s silent.  Then you start to hear sounds that make you feel good.  What are they?  Birds chirping?  Your friend calling?  A cat’s meow?  Listen to that.  Then you see the things around you that make you feel the most comfortable.  What do you see?  A comfy chair?  Books?  A table spread with your favorite foods?  A garden of flowers?  Let yourself imagine all those wonderful things.  Now breathe deeply.  You smell something that calms you.  Is it something baking?  Fresh soil?  The ocean?  Wait.  There’s someone coming.  Who is that?  It’s someone you love to be with.  Is it your dog?  A beautiful horse?  Your child?  A friend?  They are with you now, enjoying this perfect place.  This is your happy place: these sounds, sights, smells, and feelings.  Look around one last time.  Open your eyes.”

For the icebreaker prompt, ask participants to give that place a name and write down a few descriptors about the place. Tell participants to jot down their ideas to be expanded upon during the writing exercise. Then, have the participants share their place and descriptors.

Writer introduces the topic (about 5 minutes):

After the icebreaker, have your writer introduce the following writing prompt and write it on the board:

            “Write a story about your happy place. It can be a memory of something that happened at your happy place or something totally made up. It can be as  fanciful as you would like.”

 Emphasize that their happy place may be completely made up. It does not have to be based in reality and should be whatever they want it to be! Tell the participants to use as many descriptors as they can to make the best story.

Writing (about 5-10 minutes)

Have participants write their story about their “happy place”.

**This exercise is very representative of the creative writing nature of Living Words, because many of the participants will create a fictional place rather than writing down a memory.

Sharing (about 10 minutes)

After about 10 minutes of writing, have the writer ask the participants to share their writing. Once the participants have shared his or her “happy place” story, various individuals may want to share some of their reflections about the exercise. Invite them to do so.

Thanks/Goodbye (2-3 minutes)

Have your writer thank the participants for their writing and willingness to open themselves to experience their “happy place”. Have him or her invite the participants to reflect on their writing and think about our perfect place to become calmer, more relaxed when life gets stressful. Once the moderator has thanked the writer, tell the participants want to look forward to for the next writing session before dispersing! 

 Download a PDF version of this exercise, so that you may print it out and use it for your own Living Words workshop here:  Finding Your Happy Place Living Words Exercise.pdf

 

"Teaching Others"

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

As an icebreaker, have the guest writer ask the participants about an important skill that someone taught them when they were young. This gives them the opportunity to talk about the person who taught them, how they used this skill, and perhaps obstacles and successes they encountered during the learning process.

*The icebreaker and topic can be interchangeable, if it is easier for the participants to think of something they've been taught rather than taught someone else.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

Have the guest writer introduce the writing topic by noting the importance of learning new skills as well as teaching them to others, and asking the participants about a time they taught a skill to someone else, perhaps to a child, coworker, or colleague. They might discuss whom they taught, when and under what circumstances, what the skill was, and how the person later used (or continues to use) that skill.  They might also include advice or instructions about the skill, so that the reader learns from it as well.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer give the participants individual attention, helping and encouraging them as they write.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: Teaching Others.pdf

"A Child’s View of Adulthood" 

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

As an icebreaker, the guest writer may start with a funny anecdote about wanting to be a “grownup” as a child (perhaps dressing up in adult clothes, wanting to learn to drive, etc.) He or she can ask the participants if they had similar experiences, and what they looked forward to about growing up. Discussing these stories with others will help stir memories and give the participants ideas for the writing topic.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants what they, as children, thought adulthood was like. They might discuss hopes and fears they had about growing up, and how those feelings were resolved. Perhaps some things they looked forward to weren’t as exciting as they thought, or things they were afraid of weren’t nearly as stressful. Perhaps they discovered things about growing up that they had never imagined as a child.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer give the participants individual attention, helping and encouraging them as they write.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

 Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: A Child's View of Adulthood.pdf

"Rewriting the Past"

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

The guest writer will put on the table a stack of old photos from various eras. These may come from the workshop facilitators, antique/thrift stores, or from the participants themselves, if possible. Each participant selects a photo from the stack. They can then discuss “clues” in the pictures, about the era in which it was taken, the people in it, and where it might have been taken (they may judge by clothing, the paper on which it is printed, an appliance in the photo, etc.). If possible, the photos could be projected onto a wall as the participants discuss them, using an opaque projector or a computer/projector setup with scans of the photos.

*As some participants may have impaired vision, it is helpful to have larger copies of the photos, or a way of projecting it onto a wall.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants to write a story about what is happening in the picture they selected.  They should be as creative as possible, using clues from the photo, but speculating about what happened before and after the photo was taken.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer go around the room, looking at each participant’s photo. He or she may ask questions about the photo, that perhaps the participant had not considered, in order to stimulate new ideas. 

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: Rewriting the Past.pdf

"An Important Meeting"

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

The guest writer should ask the participants to think of someone they’ve met who has had a big impact on their life (a spouse, mentor, employer, best friend, etc.), then to talk about the qualities they admire in that person, and how that person impacted them.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants to remember and describe the moment they met that important person in their lives. The writer should ask the participants to consider the circumstances under which they met, what they thought of the person (and how that may have changed later), and how they felt (nervous, surprised, excited, etc.).

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer go around the room, asking each individual about his or her writing, offering encouragement and guidance.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

 Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: An Important Meeting.pdf

"Choices"

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

The guest writer should ask the participants to discuss important decisions they’ve had to make in their lives, and how they felt about making them. They might talk about the impact of these decisions, and how they feel about them in retrospect.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants to choose a good decision they have made, and a mistake they made that they learned from. They can then write about one or both of those topics. They should describe the circumstances of the decision/mistake, the impact of it, how they felt at the time, etc.  

*Can be made into a persuasive essay exercise—the participants can explain why their decision was good, or why the mistake was worth making for the learning experience.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer go around the room, asking each individual about his or her writing, offering encouragement and guidance.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

 Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: Choices.pdf

"A Memory of the Fourth of July"

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

As an icebreaker, have the guest writer ask the participants about things they associate with the 4th of July (fireworks, ice cream, independence, flags, etc.) He or she can ask where they’ve seen these things, or memories about these elements.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

Have the guest writer begin by talking about how he or she has celebrated the 4th of July in the past (maybe a story about being afraid of fireworks as a child, etc.). Then he or she can introduce the writing topic—a memory of the 4th of July. Encourage the participants to use lots of sensory details in their writing.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer give the participants individual attention, helping and encouraging them as they write. The writing time should end as some participants begin to put down their pens, so that the first to finish do not get bored.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

 Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: A Memory of the Fourth of July.pdf

"Growing Up"

 Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin by talking about some of the responsibilities he or she has had to take on as an adult. The writer can then ask the participants to name some of the responsibilities they have now that they did not when they were a child. They can discuss how they felt about taking on those responsibilities, and perhaps times they’ve wished they didn’t have those responsibilities.

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants to think of a time when they first felt that they were “grown up.” This would be a time when they felt they no longer fit in the “child” role in their family, or felt new independence from their parents. They should write not only about the circumstances, but about their feelings at the time. They might reflect on whether or not they were truly “grown up” at that time.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer go around the room, asking each individual about his or her writing, offering encouragement and guidance.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here:  Growing Up.pdf

"Switching Perspectives"

 Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin by giving a funny example of a mild conflict he or she has had with a friend, and explaining how it was resolved. He or she should then ask the participants how they have dealt with frustration with others. Do they walk away from it, or talk it out?  Do they look for a compromise, or try to win over the other person?

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants to think of a person with whom they’ve been frustrated in the past. It could be a friend, sibling, parent, or coworker, etc. They should write a description of this person, including both what they admire in the person, and the frustrating qualities. Then, they should write a description of themselves, from the perspective of the other person.

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer go around the room, asking each individual about his or her writing, offering encouragement and guidance.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here: Switching Perspectives.pdf

"Comfort Rituals"

Introductions (5 minutes)

Have the workshop mediator introduce him- or herself, give information about the Living Words program, then introduce the guest writer.

Icebreakers (20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin by asking the group to remember times that they have felt frustrated, overwhelmed, or upset. What made them feel this way? Do they feel this way often?

Writer introduces the topic (3-4 minutes)

The guest writer should then introduce the writing topic by asking the participants to think about what they do when they felt this way. Do they have busy themselves with another favorite activity, talk to a friend, or have another ritual that comforts them?

Writing (10 minutes)

Have the writer go around the room, asking each individual about his or her writing, offering encouragement and guidance.

Sharing (15-20 minutes)

The guest writer should begin the sharing period by asking, “Who would like to share something they’ve written?" Feedback should be positive, and conversation between participants in response to a reading is encouraged.

Thanks/ Goodbye (1-2 minutes) 

Have the mediator thank the participants and guest writer, and encourage the participants to return the next week.

Download a PDF of this writing exercise to print out and use in your own Living Words group here:  Comfort Rituals.pdf

What is Living Words?

Living Words is a creative writing program for mental exercise. This site provides information and support to implement the program.

Comments or questions? Email us at: livingwordsprogram@wofford.edu

Sincerely,
Dr. Kara L. Bopp, Associate Professor of Psychology, Wofford College
Mr. Jeremy L. C. Jones, Writer, editor and teacher
Ms. Joyce Finkle, Program Director, Alzheimer’s Association SC Chapter