What percentage of your writing would you say is for your novels, short stories, poems, etc? What percentage would you say is practice?
When I first started writing seriously (as in to be published someday), all of my writing was for novels. I joined a writing community online and that 100% changed to 85%. I started joining contests to improve my ability. I really enjoyed writing short stories for a horror contest, or the always fun 55 word stories. I have given up the writing community for a few months now (it was taking up a lot of my time) but I haven't given up the writing exercise that it provided me.
It is essential that a person can come up with a story in a matter of moments. That ability to think quickly allows us to write our characters out of corners and continually gives us improvement in our writing.
What kinds of exercises do I do these days? I journal a lot. The more often you write, the easier it becomes and the faster you get. You might start off journaling for ten minutes a day and only filling a page, but in a couple months you'll see your entries double or triple in length. Reading back on some of those entries also gives me ideas for stories. In fact, there is a sci-fi thriller in the works this very moment.
Some other exercises I do are on emotion, dialogue, and descriptions. I like to pick out a specific emotion and write a short story that portrays that emotion using various facial expressions and body language. Dialogue exercises I do usually include trying to use different dialects. Also, what synonyms people use in their speech can say a lot about them. And then descriptions. How often do you use smell, taste, and feel in your stories. We all use sight and sound regularly, but the other three have a tendency to get brushed aside. By pushing to use them more often, they add to the story and pull the reader in more.
If you exercise your muscles, they become stronger over time. If you exercise your mind, it will do the same. So, what kind of writing exercises do you do?