Thursday, September 23, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect: Writing Exercises

A recent guest post on Writer Beware® Blogs! reminded me of something I'd meant to do earlier this year after finishing Across Two Universes: develop my description abilities through writing exercises. Here's my first attempt, slightly edited to make the POV consistent:

Descriptive Exercise # 1—Lakeshore Path

It has been far too long since I’ve walked down Lakeshore Path to Picnic Point, but I still remember it like a pathway to my heart.

Lakeshore Path is on the edge of campus, on the other side of the marsh where wild swans swim. I usually drive there and park in the small lot, where gravel slips under my feet. There’s a wall surrounding Picnic Point, but an opening in the wall permits passage down the sandy road.

Once inside the wall, I see grassy areas where on pleasant days students sit on blankets, studying behind sunglasses and shut off from the rest of the world with earphones. More students pass me, jogging or biking, but not engaging me. I’m free to study the gnarls in the oak trees, the ruts in the path. I smell someone grilling up ahead near one of the picnic areas. Most of these areas are just wooden seats around a central area.

At one point the path splits. I choose to walk the cooler, shadowed path. Squirrels dart away from me, and crows caw overhead. Then the paths unite, and I continue past the small beach on the left. If I peep to the right, between the trees you can see the skyline of Madison past the blue lake.

This land isn’t level; there are small hills to climb. But I continue on, passing more picnic areas and a rusty water pump. Eventually I come to my favorite part of the path, a level stretch where trees arc above you like the roof of Nature’s cathedral. Then I burst through to the end of the path. Success! Another grassy area with the largest seating area of all awaits. Other walkers or joggers resting for a moment, strolling about as they regard the sailboats on the lake. But is this really the end?

No, it’s not. I continue down the sandy path there about one o’clock. The bank is steep, but tree roots cut steps into the path. Finally I’ve arrived at a fallen tree at the water’s edge. If I sit here quietly, smelling the water, I may hear a pair of ducks quietly peeping at each other as they swim past.

I'm thinking of trying a writing exercise once a week. Is anyone else interested in joining me? We could all post on the same day and offer feedback to each other. Please comment below if you'd like to do this.

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