WAW: Drills

Writing About Writing: A once-a-week post about some aspect of writing. I’m not an expert; I’m just some guy. Take it with a grain of salt.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about drills. He (a fencer) lamented that he knows too many fencers who don’t drill. They just run out there and fight, using tricks rather than practiced, precise movements perfected through drills.

That made me realize that not only do I have a freakish tolerance for boring, repetitive drills, but I use them in just about all aspects of my life. I do target practice before playing video games. I climb easy routes before climbing harder routes. And I try to make myself write every single day.

Drills for writing 

Drills, for anything, are just repetitive, simple actions. That’s how you get good at anything – you do it over and over and over.

For writing, the thing is to get yourself to do it every day. I do that here with my story a day. But on top of just writing, I like to add in extra limitations and challenges to “drill” skills:

  • A specific and difficult word limit
  • Each word has to start with a sequential letter of the alphabet (a,b,c…)
  • Only dialogue
  • No dialogue
  • Second person

These are just a couple ideas. It’s by no means an exhaustive list.

But it’s boring

So are desk jobs. And let’s be real – you probably want to make money from your writing instead of having a desk job.

In fact, even just believing you’re going to write every day is a good practice. It preps your brain to switch gears into creative mode because it knows it might need to.

Skill doesn’t happen by magic. Writing isn’t a lightning bolt that hits you and blesses you with brilliance. You get good at things by working, by doing them over and over and over until you don’t suck. You get good at things by committing to some boring shit.


Here are some places I go to for weird prompts.

  • 10 random challenges
  • 12-day plan. I don’t love all of these, but they’re a good way to start having a daily practice
  • The tomato timer. This is just a timer, but the system of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off works better than you may imagine

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