If it’s dead week or finals week at your university, you’re probably feeling the stress worse this year because of the pandemic. If your brain feels like a limp noodle and you still have assignments to churn out, consider taking a little break. Instead of turning on Netflix or scrolling through TikTok, try one of these five exercises. Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite tea, turn on some upbeat music, and get ready to reset your creative flow.
- Random word poetry
Google “random word generator” and choose a number. Click the button that number of times and whatever random word you land on, write a short poem that speaks to the prompt.
Example: I chose ‘8’ and when I clicked the random word generator I got the word ‘bulb’. I set the timer for 5 minutes and got to work devising a short poem.
Like a bulb in the earth
I wait to weather the winter
Longing for the warmth of spring
To give me permission
To bloom again
- A haiku about your feelings in the moment
Take a minute and jot down how you are currently feeling, whether it’s tired, stressed, sad, or happy. Then begin to assemble a haiku (traditional format is 3 lines: 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables) drawing inspiration from how you feel. Haiku can be a great way to exercise following form, and it can also inspire some humor. They’re short, so don’t be afraid to come up with more than one.
Example: How I feel is tired, exhausted, headache, hungry, irritable, forgetful, hangry
I am exhausted
Forgetting a deadline, maybe
Snacks will make it better
Hangry or hungry
Should I scream or should I eat
Try me and find out
- Elevator pitch for an everyday object
Look around the immediate area, and choose an object at random. It can be significant, or it can be mundane. Then write a short elevator pitch for the object. An elevator pitch is meant to be a very short explanation of what something is and why you should have it, so you can keep it short. Then try reading it out loud to get a good laugh.
Example: Elevator Pitch for An Empty Cup
Ever been asked if the glass is half full or half empty? Unsure of what to reply? Well worry no longer, because with an empty cup, you can be sure of your answer. Need a place to put your pencils? Need to store some soup so you can heat it up in the microwave? Use an empty cup. But wait, there’s more: while there is an option to fill this cup with literally anything, you can keep it empty and let it collect dust and wishes. The possibilities are endless with an empty cup on your desk!
- The final line reveal — describe a person, place, or thing without actually naming it
Choose something for your piece, whether it’s nearby or in a photograph. Then try to describe it in as much detail as you can without actually naming it. The result should be a short piece full of imagery where the reader might not know exactly what is being described, but then the subject is revealed in the last line. This can be done in essay or poetic style, whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Example: An Ocean In Miniature
I can see an ocean on the other side of the plastic
If I look closely there is life visible
A flash of gold beyond some murky matter
It is a still day, not many waves: surfers would be disappointed with the surface
In the reflection I see myself, typing away at my desk
I will feed the goldfish after this paragraph
- The post-finals fantasy
What is something you would do for yourself as a reward for finishing finals if money, time, and the pandemic weren’t factors? It can be simple or extravagant, try to choose the first thing that pops into your head even if it’s silly (the first thing I thought of was buying a steak at the grocery store). Set a timer for 3 minutes and write about your reward.
I know it sounds silly, but if I ace all my finals, I’m driving straight to the grocery store and buying myself a steak for dinner. In retrospect I think that buying takeout or going to a fancy restaurant would have more weight behind it, but I was surprisingly practical with this fantasy. I’m going to cook the steak in butter and herbs, dress up in fancy clothes, pop a bottle of red wine, and sit in blissful silence while I eat. I worked hard this semester, and I can’t usually afford steak. But I aced my finals, and I deserve to eat well tonight.
Whether you’re writing poetry or thinking about rewards you could get after finals, hopefully one or more of these exercises can help your brain reset during finals. These can be done with study groups or roommates, and can make for some laughs if you share out to someone. Good luck with your finals!