This is an exercise I've adapted to work with my students - I've put it here in the hope it helps you too. Would love to know how you get on with it.
Of course, we all know what sort of writers we should be. Except, er, excuse me, but do we? Because who is the perfect writer? The one who produces a stream of bestselling beach reads, or the hermit who spends years perfecting a critically acclaimed but barely sold novella? The one who thrives on deadlines, or the one who runs away and hides at the mere thought of outside pressure? The only thing that’s sure is that every person will have a different writing process. One useful way to find out what kind of writer you are is to try this exercise.
1. Take your journal and, without thinking too much, complete these sentences – I like to write … I don’t like to write ….
2. Keep going like that for the whole ten minutes, alternating the sentences one after the other. Again and again. I like…. I don’t like … Don’t worry about repetition, or about making proper sentences. Particularly don’t cross out or start editing yourself. You should be writing as fast as you can.
3. After your time limit is over, then go back and re-read. Underline anything you find particularly interesting.
4. Are there any discoveries or patterns you can discover about yourself as a writer? When I did this exercise, I was amazed to find out that I write best in blasts, that I prefer music to silence, that I want my writing to be enjoyed by friends, and that I don’t write well when I’m hungry.
5. Now make a list to put above your computer. Above it, write: ‘I am not a perfect writer, but I like ..’ What do you need to change in order to help your writing self perform best?
Finding out what YOU like, and not what you are supposed to like is one of the first steps to taking yourself seriously as a writer.
* Five Ways to Write More.
*Five Films About Writing.