Writing exercises are brain exercises. If you can take a vague scenario and turn it into specific action, you are using your brain. That’s all a writing exercise is, a tool to get you started. Writing prompts are similar, but the exercises are much more detailed. You can make them into a game, using dice or flash cards. All you have to do is roll or deal a set of circumstances and you are on your way. It may not have anything to do with whatever your writing project is, but they represent a break in the routine.
Some authors start their day just free writing for fifteen or twenty minutes. I like timed writing exercises, myself. I find the deadline stimulates me to write, without worrying about what word choices I make. The important part is to get it written down. Choosing the exact right word comes later when you revise the work.
Writing exercises can help you by making you do something else. Randomly choosing a set of circumstances, whether using dice or dealing cards, gives you a new perspective. Perhaps you would never have thought about the combination you get when you roll the dice or deal the cards. I have what I call a random problem generator that I can use to create a list of problems for my characters in the story I am currently writing. All it is is a list of problems I wrote down on index cards. I shuffle the cards and deal out ten of them. Then I have a set of problems that I can throw at my characters. I use it as a writing exercise on occasion. I just deal out a set of circumstances and develop scenes from that. I plan to do a similar set of cards with generic characters, like male doctor, female doctor, an alien, or maybe just doctor, lawyer, alien, etc. and choose the names and gender after I deal out the problems they should face. I’m not sure, but I think someone wrote out a set of cards for novel writing. I don’t think I made this up, but I don’t remember who did. My idea is to make a game with cards; flash card apps for your phone would do wonderfully for this idea as long as you could print them out or something. A flash card app that would run on a computer would be ideal. All you would need would be a deck for generic characters, one for generic settings, and a deck for problems. Shuffle the decks separately and deal out one card from each deck. Then write the story. Even if you only write one scene, you have still written something. You could end up with a doctor on a space station with a meteor about to strike it. What would your doctor do? Could he/she do anything? That’s what this method is all about.
All you would need are some index cards and your own imagination. The possibilities here are rich in story ideas. All you have to do is make the cards once and then reuse them as often as you wish. You could even add decks to the system to build scenes that are more complex. Just remember to write down the scenes as you deal them and see what you can come up with. It could just be a best seller.