Wouldn’t you love to smash your content out of the ring every time?
To always land that knockout blow, just like your blogging idols?
Imagine having the same audience of cheering fans, clamoring to read your next post (or to buy your next book).
Yep. That’s the dream, alright.
But let’s face reality. When you sit down to write new content, it never quite measures up to the greats. (How do they make it look so easy?)
You’d love to write like the heavyweight blogging champions you admire, but right now you feel more like the puny guy at the punching bag. You may as well grab another soda and flop in front of the TV.
But don’t throw in the towel just yet.
You may not write like those blogging champions now, but that doesn’t mean you never will. If you exercise your writing muscles, you too can become one of the greats.
How to Exercise Your Writing Muscles and Become a Blogging Heavyweight
Exercise. (Groan.) Who needs it?
You do. We all do.
If you want to be physically fit, you need to exercise your body. And if you want to produce powerful, punchy content, you need to exercise your writing muscles. It’s a no-brainer.
But that doesn’t mean you just write every day without any training regimen.
Sure, that might get you there eventually, but smart writers will exercise with precision.
They will take 15-30 minutes every day to train specific skills. And they won’t just train once and think they’re done. They will go back and train the same skill over and over, until they have it down pat.
That’s how you want to approach the exercises below.
When you do them for the first time, you might feel clumsy and unnatural. But after a few weeks of daily workouts, you’ll quickly notice a difference.
That’s how exercise works.
Ready to get started?
Then put down that soda, buddy. We’re going to the writing gym!
Category #1: Exercises That’ll Make You Fearless in the Writing Ring
Most writers hold back when they write. They’re afraid to open up and show all of themselves, terrified they’ll be rejected or ridiculed.
But the most powerful writers are fearless. They bleed everything they have onto the page, making people wince, gasp, sob or seethe. Their writing connects on a deep level because they’re not scared to be vulnerable.
If you want your writing to connect like that, you must train yourself to release your suppressed emotions and write with brutal honesty.
It’s hard to put all of yourself out there, but once you master the technique, it’s like unshackling the chains. You will connect with your readers on an entirely new level.
The exercises below will train you to be fearlessly vulnerable.
Exercise #1: Tell Your Best Friends Why They Suck
I’m sure you love your friends dearly, but let’s be honest, sometimes they annoy the heck out of you.
Write a letter to each of your friends, telling them what you hate about them. Tell them everything you wish they’d stop doing and saying.
Don’t actually send it — I don’t want to be responsible for ruining all your friendships — but don’t hold anything back.
And when you’re done, move on to family members, coworkers, and so on.
Exercise #2: Confront the Person Who Broke Your Heart
Write them the letter you’ve been penning in your head since the day they reached into your chest, ripped out your heart, and left it bleeding at your feet.
Tell them about the physical pain and every emotion you felt at that moment. The ones that are seared into your brain forever.
Exercise #3: Recall Your Most Painful Experiences
Think about the most painful experiences in your life — the ones that didn’t just make you shed a tear or two, but made you bawl bucketloads.
Now write an account of those occasions and let all the emotions flood out.
You should be dripping tears onto your keyboard while you do this.
Exercise #4: Confess Your Deepest, Darkest Secret
Write about a secret that you’ve kept locked away out of embarrassment — something about yourself that nobody knows and that you don’t want anybody to know. Now’s the time to unleash the beast.
Remember, whatever you write is for your eyes only, and once you’re done, you can tear it up right away.
Exercise #5: Write Down the Worst Thing That Could Ever Happen
What’s that one thing that you constantly worry will happen? What’s that one recurring nightmare that makes you wake up screaming and sobbing?
Whatever it is, write about it. Get it all on the page and face your monsters.
Exercise #6: Describe Your Most Mortifying Moment
Everyone has a moment they wish they could erase. The shame and indignity of something you said or did. The toe-curling embarrassment that still makes you groan in agony whenever the memory pops into your head.
Put it down in writing. Remember every mortifying detail. Relive the humiliation and spew it all onto the page.
Category #2: Exercises That’ll Get Your Writing Style in Perfect Shape
When you talk, you use more than your voice. You use inflections, hand gestures and body language to add emphasis and personality. But as a writer, your words must do all the heavy lifting. Each one has to count.
Your content shouldn’t just get the message across, it should do so with flair and gusto. It should be so pleasing to read that readers flow from line to line.
That’s why every serious writer should spend serious time honing their writing style until it’s almost flawless.
Exercise #7: Copycat Your Writing Heroes
One of the best ways to develop a strong writing style is to copy your favorite writers by hand — as in, pen to paper.
Pick a blogger whose voice you admire and copy their posts, word for word. Don’t think too hard about it. Just go with it.
As you write out their words, you’ll internalize their writing style, their pace and rhythm, their grammar, their word choice, and their sentence structure.
Make no mistake. This is one of the most powerful ways to sharpen your writing skills.
Exercise #8: Replicate the Rhetoric from JFK and MLK
Famous speeches, like those from John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, often use rhetorical devices to strengthen their message.
See this example, where JFK repeats the same phrase at the beginning of each sentence.
What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another.
Or see this example, where MLK uses several rhetorical devices in a row:
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city , we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics , will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
These are marvelous writing tools you can use to make your content explode with power.
To get a good feel for them, google the transcripts of famous speeches, see if you can spot where they use rhetorical devices like the ones above, and then rewrite them to fit into five different contexts.
For example, you might rewrite JFK’s words as such:
The goal of this exercise is to practice these techniques until your brain absorbs the rhythm and inflection and it becomes second nature to recognize where to include rhetorical devices in your writing.
Exercise #9: Eliminate 20%
Rambling sentences are a turn-off. Powerful content uses short and pacey sentences that are easy to read and simple to grasp.
That’s why you should train yourself to write concisely.
Select one of your old posts and rewrite it, paragraph by paragraph. Your goal is to cut around 20% of your total word count without changing the meaning or deleting a point.
Focus on shortening each paragraph itself. Cut flabby words, remove redundancy, merge sentences, and replace long-winded phrases with shorter alternatives. You won’t be able to do it for each one, but try.
Do this enough, and eventually conciseness will become a natural part of your writing style.
Exercise #10: Write Your 400-Word Life Story
Nobody likes reading posts that go off on endless tangents and drag on and on about irrelevant nonsense.
You need to train yourself to omit the fluff and get to the point. You should only ever share the minimal amount that’s needed for the reader to get the picture.
In this exercise, write a story that paints a complete picture of your life, but limit yourself to 400 words. This forces you to focus on the most important events.
You can repeat this exercise with different topics as well. For instance, you might write a 400-word summary of the last movie you watched or the last book you read.
Exercise #11: Write a Movie Dialogue
You don’t want your content to read like an instruction manual. It should read like you’re having a conversation with your readers. This makes them feel more engaged with the content.
So before you write your next post, write a dialogue between yourself and an audience member on the same topic.
Think about how two people would chat (like in the scene of a movie), and reflect this natural flow in your writing.
Exercise #12: Find Analogies for Everyday Life
Analogies (and their cousins, similes and metaphors) are a writer’s best friend.
They can create powerful imagery, make complex ideas easy to understand, and add color and fun to your writing. But coming up with a great analogy is hard — unless you consistently practice.
So make a list of everything you did or experienced yesterday such as getting up from bed, brushing your teeth, walking the dog, doing yoga, and so on. Now, for each activity, come up with a metaphor or analogy.
Training your brain to make connections between two unrelated things will make you more creative and imaginative. Practice it enough and you’ll find that metaphors and similes will come to you naturally as you write your posts.
Hint: Finding great analogies is crazy-hard. Use this guide to make sure you’re doing it right.
Category #3: Exercises That’ll Give Your Writing a Hilarious Left Hook
Your content shouldn’t just teach and inspire your audience, it should also entertain. And sprinkling in the odd joke here and there can go a long way.
Humor helps you connect with your audience. It makes your content stand out in what may be an otherwise humorless niche, and this means it’s more likely to be remembered.
Don’t worry — you don’t have to become the next Jerry Seinfeld. But with these exercises, you can train yourself to find the funny in the mundane.
Exercise #13: Look at the World Through Distorted Glasses
One reliable way to make people laugh is to put everything in the world into new and absurd contexts.
You pretend you don’t know what an object or custom is actually for, and then guess at what its true purpose is.
See how that works?
Don’t worry about sounding silly. The trick is to think completely outside the box.
Exercise #14: Pile on the Exaggeration
Another good way to go for laughs is to exaggerate something to the point of absurdity.
If you want an example of this in action, see this video of Phyllis Diller talking about her mother-in-law:
Get the picture?
Good. Now brainstorm twenty endings to each of these sentences:
- My house is so small…
- My cat is so lazy…
- My wife is so bossy…
- My home town is so hick…
- My job is so boring…
Don’t worry if they’re not all comedy gold. The idea is to practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
And when you’re done with this list, continue practicing. Use things you own or people you know, define a few of their characteristics (e.g., my car is red, tiny, old, guzzles gas, has powerful brakes, etc.), and then make a list of exaggerations.
Category #4: Exercises That’ll Beef Up Your Scene-Painting Skills
Dry content is boring. If you want to evoke a powerful response, you must evoke your reader’s senses.
You must paint tangible scenes, using visual and sensual language to make your words burst off the page in glorious technicolor.
Take this extract from one of Jon Morrow’s most inspiring posts, An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage. It’s chock-full of words that paint a graphic picture of a fish:
You go fishing one day with your rod and reel, hook a fish, and reel it in, dragging it out of the water so you can get a better look at your catch. It’s lying on land, its gills pumping furiously, its eyes bulging, its mouth opening and closing in silent screams. Every once in a while, it flips around, trying to work its way back into the water, but it’s no use; the poor thing is hooked.
Minutes pass, and you can see the strength slipping out of it. It fights less and less, its eyes dull, and eventually, it goes still.
When you read that, can’t you just see the fish flip-flopping in front of you?
Powerful, isn’t it?
Use these exercises to practice painting vivid scenes yourself.
Exercise #15: Describe the Best (and Worst) Date You Ever Had
What were you wearing? Where did you meet up? What were the first words out of your mouth?
Describe your memories of the date, making them as vivid and tangible as possible.
Don’t tell us she was pretty. Tell us how her sparkling eyes made you tingle from head to toe. Make us picture the scene, hear the sounds, and feel your sensations.
Exercise #16: Write About Meeting Your In-Laws for the First Time
Was it terrifying? Funny? Heartwarming?
Did your mother-in-law’s eyes laser your heart before her tongue lashed at your soul? Or was she as welcoming as fried chicken at a family barbeque?
Exercise #17: Recall Your Most Vivid Memory of School
This one speaks for itself. So I’ll just give you an example of my own:
At primary school, I hated rice pudding with a passion. One day I refused to eat it, so my teacher refused to let me leave the table. It was a battle of wills. I sat, arms crossed, staring at the cold, congealed, white mush, with cheap jelly splodged across its yucky skin. Beside me, my teacher cajoled, pleaded, threatened, and silently cursed. I won.
What’s your most vivid memory of school? Describe every detail.
Exercise #18: Write About Your Greatest Sporting Moment
Write an account of your most glorious sporting achievement, whether you’re an Olympic champion, or you and your brother won the under-fives’ three-legged race at your community fair.
Relive every triumphant moment as you realised you were about to make your own personal version of sporting history.
Category #5: Exercises That’ll Make You Pack a More Persuasive Punch
Your writing must be persuasive if you want it to stick in people’s minds.
It must persuade your readers to see your point of view. It must persuade your readers to believe in themselves. Sometimes, it must persuade readers to buy what you’re selling.
So here are some exercises to practice your persuasion skills.
Exercise #19: Give Your Younger Self a Pep-Talk
One of the best ways to persuade people is to show them a better version of themselves. If you can inspire someone, you can persuade them.
But not everybody is naturally inspirational. That’s why you should practice.
You must have had moments in your past when you could’ve used some words of encouragement — moments when you felt scared, or concerned, or defeated.
Find these moments in your life, and write your younger self a pep-talk. Write down what you needed to hear in that moment. Inspire your younger self to keep their head up and keep going. Show them that better version of themselves.
Exercise #20: Write a Super-Slick Sales Page for a Dinner Plate
You may not have any products or services on offer yet, but at some point, you probably will. That means you won’t just have to know how to sell, but you’ll have to get over whatever hangups you have about being “salesy”.
Pick an object from your house — something mundane, like a dinner plate, a pencil, or a towel — and write an over-the-top sales pitch for it.
Think about the benefits of the object, and what features it has that makes it stand out against other similar objects. By picking a mundane object, you force yourself to get creative when you think of its unique selling points.
Exercise #21: Write an Assertive Op-Ed Piece for the New York Times
When you write a blog post, you must write with authority. That means you can’t be wishy-washy with your language and you can’t hold back your opinions because you’re afraid they might rub people the wrong way. (Remember, you have to be fearless.)
Train yourself to be assertive in your writing by picking a controversial topic you feel strongly about and pretending the New York Times asked you to write an op-ed on it.
State your opinion clearly and proudly, avoid ambiguity, and explain in no uncertain terms why you feel the way you feel.
Category #6: Exercises That’ll Strengthen Your Storytelling Muscles
Everyone loves a good story. And understanding the mechanics of telling a good story will make you a far more engaging writer.
Did you know, for instance, that most great stories follow a three-act structure?
When you do the exercises below, try and mix things up by writing shorter and longer stories. Write a multi-page story, then write a three-paragraph story. But apply the three-act structure every time, until you have it down pat.
Exercise #22: Write Your Own Superhero Story
Imagine you’re a superhero who has to save the world from a terrible evil. Use your real life for inspiration, but sprinkle in fantastical elements to make things more exciting.
Where do you come from? What’s your superpower? Who or what gave you your powers? What’s your kryptonite? Who’s your evil arch-enemy?
Have fun with this one!
Exercise #23: Write a Series of Café Stories
Sit in a café and observe the people around you. Pick someone who looks interesting. Now, use every ounce of your imagination and write his or her story.
What brought them to this coffee shop? Are they in the first act of their story and about to set off on an adventure, or are they in the third act and recuperating from the adventure they had?
Exercise #24: Write Crime Thrillers About Your Neighbors
Did you ever see the movie Rear Window? Or have you read this year’s literary thriller, The Woman in The Window? Both follow a similar compelling storyline of someone witnessing a crime in a neighboring house… or did they?
Next time you’re walking your dog around your neighborhood, pay more attention to the homes you pass. Now write a synopsis of a short thriller inspired by any of the houses you see (or can see into). Let the front yard, architecture, and possibly the people drive your twisted tale.
Exercise #25: Write a Graveyard Tale
Go to your local graveyard and wander around the tombstones. Take inspiration from the inscriptions and write a series of short stories about the characters you find.
How did they die? Who did they leave behind? Are they connected to anyone else in the graveyard?
Exercise #26: Write a Fairy Tale about the Big Bad Wolf
Think of your favorite fairy tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel) and rewrite them from the bad guy’s point of view.
Put yourself in their shoes. Think about what motivated them, what they were trying to achieve, and whether they cared what other people thought of them.
Do the same for each of the characters in the story (e.g., the mom, the grandma, the woodcutter). And finally, create a new disinterested observer and write the same fairy tale from their point of view.
This will teach you think more deeply about the characters in your stories.
Ready to Become a Blogging Heavyweight Champion?
You made it!
You’ve completed a full run-through of your writing workout.
All you have to do now is start practicing these exercises for real.
Every day. Every week and every month.
Find two or three exercises that appeal to you and start a regimen for 15-20 minutes a day. After a couple of weeks, pick another two or three and start again.
Keep refreshing them. Keep enthused and keep at it.
Before you know it, you’re going to go from that puny guy at the punching bag to heavyweight writing champion of the world.
Yeah! (Cue Rocky music!)