A common writing exercise is to go somewhere – say a park – and write what you see, based on the five key senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, and texture. Sometimes I like to modify this exercise and instead write what I imagine – the stories of the lives of people sitting in the park. But another version I recently discovered and tried is to observe yourself instead.
Look at yourself in an omnipresent way, and write about yourself in third person. What are you doing? (Writing, obviously! but are you sitting down, are you comfortable, are you distracted?) What are you thinking, what sort of weird twists and tricks is your mind doing? (Is it trying to avoid a topic, or struggling to focus, or..).
I actually found this exercise to be intensely cathartic. It is also great practice for Virginia Woolf-style descriptions of a character’s mind or state.
Here’s an example of what I mean, though to be honest, it’s not the original exercise I did on myself, as that ended up being very personal.
She tried to convince herself she was contemplating something serious, when really she was impatiently passing time, hoping ideas would come to her as she sat on the couch, kicking it with her heals, and balancing her computer on her lap. She shifted its heat from one thigh to the other.