I promised to share some insider tips from our group about writing, and today I’m going to start with my ongoing advice to myself. Things I have to make myself do, outside of my freelance writing work and constant mommying. Without these activities in my day to day life, I tend to lose my writing mojo, so to speak.
For me personally, my attempt to write just enough so that I actually feel good about calling myself a writer goes a little beyond typing at the keyboard. So that I feel like a writer, there are three things I do every day.
Yep. Everything. At any given time I’m reading a book I love, and one that I probably don’t love but I’m forcing myself to get through, if for no other reason than I know how I don’t want to write. On top of this I read newspapers, magazine articles, blog posts, and my very favorite– fresh, unpublished fiction from some future authors I am lucky enough to call friends. Everything I read, whether I love it or hate it, agree or disagree with its message, makes me a better writer in one way or another.
As far as what I like to read, I try to choose books that are similar to the genre in which I like to write. This helps with a myriad of things: what kind of characters are best for my stories, how dialogue and narration plays into the overall piece, the way the plot unfolds, and etc… When I’m reading a book I’ve chosen specifically because it’s like my own writing, I not only look for things I love, I find and analyze the things I don’t like. I ask myself why I didn’t like something, and what I might have done differently.
If you want to write but aren’t sure what genre might suit you best, think about your favorite books. Go back to the stories that stay inside your head long after you turn the last page, those favorites you keep on your shelf year after year. Read them, even if it’s for the twentieth time and make a note of specific scenes, characters, paragraphs and pages that strike you. Chances are, you’ll find your writing voice there. If it means something to you, that’s probably the kind of thing you want to say with your writing. As the popular young adult fiction author Brandon Mull says: “Try to find the music that only you can hear.”
This may seem a little obvious, but if you’re a parent, have a job, or are working on a higher education (basically any form of adult human being) you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are some days I literally have six minutes in between obligations. But I make myself write something every day. It might be a short conversation from my novel, an idea for a scene, or even an idea for a new story.
A lot of times, what I write is simply a random observation; a quick sentence about what the trees looked like after a storm or an overheard conversation that sparks an idea. It can be any length, from a few simple sentences to a thousand word document. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t grammatically correct or especially poetic. The point is that original thoughts from my head have made it into print.
Try this, and do it without limits or rules. Anything goes. Trust me, this does wonders for the psyche. Start doing this and you’ll see instant results— hit with an onslaught of new words and ideas. The brain is a beautiful thing in that once it creates something new…it begs for more. There is simply no better way to inspire writing, than to write.
I have to admit this one is my favorite (and I chose this picture because it reminds me of the characters in my current project…*sigh*)
Ahem. Anyway, every day, just before I fall asleep I close my eyes and give my imagination a chance to hold my attention. I just let whatever images come into my head play around there for awhile, to see what my muse comes up with. A lot of times it’s random, anything from the perfect first kiss to a giant, fire-breathing dragon, but if I’m in the middle of working on a specific story, it’s an existing scene. And even if I’ve re-written it twenty times, I figure if it comes about in my semi-subconscious, I still have probably not written it to its truest form. So I let the muse have her way with my mind. And that isn’t as dirty as it sounds. (Well, okay maybe sometimes…)
Often, I simply let my mind settle into sleep and let the images gracefully fade away. But sometimes (this is the best part!) I get an epiphany. Suddenly I have a new idea, the perfect premise for a new blog post, an essay or a poignant conversation between two of my characters. I keep a notebook or two, (or twenty) in my nightstand for just such occasion. I jot it all down without worrying what it sounds or looks like—just get the idea down there on the paper so I can tangibly reach for it later. It’s the perfect way to capture random creativity. It’s like getting keynotes from my imagination
Essentially, those are the basics for me. Sometimes, a friend will come across something I’ve written, a blog post, part of my book, (a sarcastic Facebook post) and ask how I keep coming up with fresh things to write. In repeatedly doing these things I’ve discussed, that’s how. Believe it or not, most of the time I have to lead my mind into the narrows of creativity.
Before I sign off, I feel compelled to say that my methods aren’t the only means for inspiring oneself into writing. On the contrary. In our little group alone, each of us have probably tried a half-dozen different approaches on any given day, to keep the muse at hand.
I hope this has brought some insight to those of you who want to write but aren’t sure where to start. And for those of you that do write, I’d love to hear what keeps you inspired!
Gotta go, it’s time to imagine. 😉