April 24, 2018
If you’re a writer who waits for inspiration, you may find yourself waiting a long time. Consider using these tips to help you actively grab inspiration instead.
- Observe everything around you. Include perceptions (yours and those of others), dreams and expectations, and information.
- Give some thought to what drives you to write. Do you write in order to make money? To share a vision with others? To experiment with language? When you realize your motivation, you’ll concentrate on your writing better.
- Work within the rules of the form you’re writing. There are formulas for genre fiction such as romance and mystery. There are rules for poetry. Your challenge is to write something new and creative while staying within the rules.
- Test the limits of your writing ideas. For example, write about a character as seen through the eyes of the mail carrier. What type and quantity of mail does the character get? What perceptions form within the mail carrier’s mind about the person based on that mail? What you write may not be worthy of including in your story, but it will expand your creativity to see the character with new eyes. You can move ahead from there.
- Learn to enjoy being alone with you. Set aside a place and time for writing. Remember Pavlov’s dog? You can condition yourself. When you go to your writing place, you automatically think writing. You know you can’t leave for, say, thirty minutes, so eventually something will come to mind and you’ll start writing during that time. It may not be what you expected, but at least you’re writing. My point is you have a lot inside of you that stays hidden unless you learn to enjoy being alone with you and give yourself permission to discover what’s within you.
- Allow yourself to be patient. In our instant gratification world, we want things quick and now. But sometimes things take time to learn, to happen, to come to fruition.
- Be confident. You know that you can write. Since writing is a craft (sorry to disappoint you if you thought it was just talent), the more you write, the better your writing gets. Consider this story. I tried out for sixth-grade band. I wanted to play drums, but back in those days, I was told girls don’t play drums–they played clarinet or flute. I chose clarinet but could never stop squeaking, no matter how much I sucked that reed or practiced. Since I played piano, I knew I had some musical ability. But instead of persisting, I gave up band the day I ended up in last chair behind a girl who didn’t even show up. How bad must I be when I’m deemed worse than a no-show? What I did learn, however, is that I didn’t lack confidence as much as I lacked desire. I didn’t want to play clarinet in the first place. Be honest with yourself about your writing and if you really want it, confidently practice it as much as you can.
- Understand you get to destroy what you write. Some call that editing or rewriting, but I call it power. You don’t have to share anything you write until you think it’s ready to be shared.
- Know that not everyone will like what you write and that’s okay. Not everyone likes gardening or eating fish. Just remember that most published writers have been rejected numerous times before being accepted. What makes the difference? The publisher who accepted the work liked it while the others didn’t. And that’s the real key. Publishers/readers/agents reject the writing, not the writer. They don’t reject you. They don’t even know you, so don’t take the rejection personal. If you get a rejection, simply say, “Next,” and send it out to the next market on your list. Just make sure your writing is your best effort when you do start sharing it and be willing to listen to any suggestions you may get along the way. It’s your writing, not theirs, but they may give you some ideas to make it better, so be open to considering what they say.
This post is longer than most, but creativity is a complex topic. I hope you find something here to help you lure inspiration to you rather than you wait for it to show up. Happy writing!
April 16, 2018
Many writers focus on character or plot, and they should. They should also consider giving their readers a real sense of place the characters occupy and the plot evolves. One only has to think about the house in Psycho to realize how powerful place can be in a story.
Here are some ideas to help you capture place in your writing.
- Observe buildings, landscapes, entertainment venues, etc. Take pictures, note your first impressions/feelings about the place, consider why the place was constructed as it was, think about why it is the way it is currently.
- Research places you’ve heard of but not yet visited. Books (don’t overlook the bibliographies in those books), brochures (see what the marketing people thought would entice visitors), people (memoirs reveal things not found anywhere else), and, of course, the Internet are all good research options. Look for floor plans, what was going on in the community/society when the place was built or designed, what changes were made over time.
- Spend some time in the place. Go there and look for things that are original to the place, things that may have been updated/upgraded, and what was once there but is now gone.
- Tap into your creativity and imagine who enjoyed the place, what they did there, when they were there, where they came from (and where they went), why they chose to be there, and how that place impacted their lives.
- Allow yourself to notice the little things that can make a big difference. Is the landscape neglected or kept with obvious pride? Are the windows in the building clean? Open? Closed? Broken? What sounds do you hear? Children laughing? Music? Birds? Barking dogs? Creaking floors? How do you describe furnishings–plush and homey or smooth and institutional? Well, you get the idea.
Place can be a very important part of your story. Give your reader the opportunity to be there with you. Let your reader see and feel what you do. Happy writing!
April 4, 2018
Creative people rely on finding inspiration to help them expand their creativity. Creative people also run the risk of being too hard on themselves if they don’t find inspiration when they’re looking for it. And that’s the lesson--stop looking for inspiration and start allowing it to show itself to you. Here are some ideas to help you.
- Be open to the various gifts of inspiration that surround you every day. Some of them reside within you. Some of them appear unexpectedly around you. For example, a song may trigger a memory of someone you hadn’t thought of in years and that memory may expand beyond the person into something you did with that person, a gift you gave or received from that person, or even a secret you shared with that person.
- Give yourself permission to join bits and pieces from things that inspire you. For example, you may start with the personality of one friend and combine it with the appearance of another to create a totally new character. Add the career of a third person and your character becomes even more inspired.
- Take a memory and write it out in detail. Include descriptions, facts, assumptions, all you can remember about the people involved, location, weather, feelings, fears, joys, etc. Then sort through what you wrote and use what works in your story. Save what doesn’t work in that particular story for use in another.
- Appreciate the people and places you’ve previously ignored or discounted. Maybe those people are not as dull as you originally thought. Maybe something exciting happened in that old post office building a hundred years ago. Most people and places can offer something inspiring if you dig a little deeper and give them a chance. Maybe you’re the one with something to offer that few people know about that you can use in your writing.
- Be honest about what you’re writing. Not every book deserves to be written, or at least shouldn’t be written by you. I’m a teacher. Corporations hired me to teach needle arts to their employees after hours. School districts hired me to teach needle arts in adult education programs. I learned that I enjoyed teaching and my students seemed to enjoy learning. I expanded into teaching writing, speaking, communication, business, and management at colleges (graduate and undergraduate courses at both private and public universities). I even wrote and reviewed college textbooks. But as much as I love teaching, I didn’t love writing textbooks. How about you? What book should you be writing and what book should you stay away from?
I hope these ideas help you recognize inspiration when it comes to you. There is not another person in this world who sees things exactly as you do and only you can write what you write. I hope you enjoy the journey. Happy writing!