Writer’s Digest recently released their top ten edition in which they create all kind of lists related to the world of writing. I had been thinking about discontinuing my subscription but when I received this copy, I smiled as I remembered the fun I had with last year’s issue that followed the same format.
I’m very fond of lists (OCD?). I love to make shopping lists, to-do lists…you name it. I especially like crossing things off of my to-do list. And so I thought for today’s post I would indulge myself. So here’s my “Off-the-Top-of-My-Head List for Ten Places to Seek Inspiration.
Thrift shops–rummage through the remnants of other peoples’ lives. Focus on an object or let your imagination construct a scene around an object.
Coffee shops or restaurants–lurk in the corner of the booth and jot down other people’s dialogues. Listen for subject and “voice.”
Sitting or walking in nature–indulge in sensory description.
A bus stop, train station or airport–watch people hurry about the business of life. Wonder where they are going and why.
News sources–papers, radios, TV news and the Internet are ripe with snippets of news that can explode into fiction.
Book Stores–in light of the closing of Border’s, we can only hope this will not become a trend. Yeah for e-books, but nothing replaces thumbing through the pages, looking at covers, luxuriating in “real” books. Look for trends and story ideas.
Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook–follow conversation threads, look at ads, check out profiles. You never know where you might uncover a new character or theme.
Art Museums–one of my favorites. Sit for a while in front of a piece of art. Really look at it. What would your senses perceive if you were inside the painting? How would it smell, taste, feel? What would you hear? Use the painting as the subject of a poem. Research a bit about the artist.
Hospital or Doctor’s Waiting Rooms–I don’t suggest going there just to observe, but if you do have to wait, check out emotional responses of those waiting with you and try to describe them objectively. You are bound to pick up some anxiety, perhaps some sadness, relief, or impatience.
Public Venues of any Sort–I wrote an entire short story once based on what I saw while waiting for a concert to begin…one of those “bring your blanket and sit on the grass things.” And the whole event, plagued by a significant thunder and lightning storm, gave me a story line.
Now it’s your turn. You might want to review the subject of “Artists’ Dates” in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Where are some of the places you go to discover your writing muse? Please share a bit with us in the comments. If you like, post something that you’ve written based on your trolling and link it in comments as well. I have limited Internet access right now, so will respond as soon as possible. Thanks for joining.
Many of us experience creative slumps, but I do believe that there are steps we can take to invite the muse back into our writing lives. Here are just a few remedies that have helped me in the past:
Brainstorm with a friend, or alone if you prefer. This is especially effective if you are writing fiction and the story line has come grinding to a halt. If you participate in an on-line community, you may discover inspiration with the help of one of your blogging buddies.
Switch genres. Move outside your comfort zone and write a brief poem, short story or an article…whichever you don’t write on an ordinary basis.
Go back to a piece of writing that you previously abandoned and revise/edit/resuscitate.,
Take a break. Go for a walk in nature, browse a museum or art gallery, a thrift store or garage sale. You will find a wealth of subject matter to explore.
Choose random words from a dictionary or book and use them as in a paragraph, poem or flash fiction. Allow your subconscious to do the choosing. You will be surprised to find that a theme often emerges.
Put your manuscript aside and take a break from writing for a day or two, or longer. But set a deadline to return.
If you write poetry, try a form that is new to you, or free verse if you usually write form poetry.
Maintain a daily writing journal and every evening jot down a few details of things you’ve observed, tidbits of conversations you’ve had or overheard, events that took place. When you’re stuck, go digging in your collected musings for something that ignites a spark.
Keep a file of work that you’ve edited out of previous manuscript or poems. Go back, select one and use it as a launch pad for an entirely new project.
I hope you find something in this to jump-start your writing if and when it stalls. Would you do me a favor? If you have suggestions or technique that help you, would you share it in comments?
This is the time of year when the seasons start to change. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, snow begins to melt and crocuses emerge from their winter’s rest. And, I suppose, below the equator, the opposite unfolds. Wherever we are, each day brings a dying and an awakening.
For today’s prompt, write about something in your life that is declining or coming to life. Or both.
Waking Up in Reno
Morning starts cranking
in slow motion.
Befuddled thoughts unfold
like arthritic joints.
Silence wraps the house,
except for the groaning heater
as it stretches and snarls.
A train rolls toward
emitting a plaintive lament.
Everything’s on the verge
of arousing to another
People stir into wakefulness
to repeat what they did the day before and
the day before that.
creativity simmers, sparks
Steam from a
cup of coffee
fogs the computer screen.
If you respond to this prompt, please leave a link to your blog in the comments…or post your poem, if you prefer.
Here’s a fun and somewhat surprising challenge. Grab a hold of your dictionary and thumb through it. Choose between 10-30 words (verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs) that appeal to you, catch your fancy. Now, construct a poem using only those words. You may, however add the garnishments of articles, conjunctions etc. When you’ve finished, see if you’re not astonished to find a loosely-structured theme. It will probably be one of your more obscure poems but wait and see. Your subconscious may be hard at work in your word choices. I’ve done this a few times and it’s a great way of breaking out of a block, even if it doesn’t turn out to be one of your best poems. Here’s mine:
Crimson sucklings thirst
for silken flesh.
Doves arc into the sky
that dangle quiet flames.
Anoint her body,
dormant like a
wooden rocking horse,
alone in liquid,
aching for shelter.
Erase the anguish
I’m feeling a bit dull myself today so I think I’ll work on another one. If you do this and post it, I would love for you to send me the link in comments.
It can happen…there are things more important than blogging. Last Sunday when I got back from church there was a message from my niece that my almost-90-year-old mother was on her way to the emergency room. Within 2 hours I was on a plane, heading toward Huntington Beach. And that’s where I’ve been for the last week.
Mom’s antiquated computer, which she only uses for solitaire, wouldn’t let me access my blog. So, I put aside my writerly persona and resumed the role of nurse. She’s doing a little better, but I’ll be heading down south again in a few days, this time with my laptop.
Events like this serve to remind us of the importance of being present in the moment and responding to what’s important in the now. There are times when writing must take a back seat to more important things…and moments when physical and emotional demands drain us of creativity. And that’s okay. We do what we are called to do and bank the experience for future inspiration.
Today, I need to rest and recover. Tomorrow…we’ll see what the day brings.
The drive home and challenges of unpacking have prevented writing and blogging time over the last few days. However, that doesn’t mean that demands of life have the right to completely stiffle the creative process. Tuning into silence, probing the Within, heightening sensory perception–all of these contribute to enrich sensory description, theme, symbolism and plot. It’s good to be home but the return to normalcy is still a way off. In the meantime, I’ll grab a minute here, jot some notes there. And when my writing routine begins to re-emerge, I’ll have a wealth of material to turn to. Successful writing depends on cultivating awareness.
Yesterday was the final day of National Poetry Month and today, the first of May, is the last day of our desert sejour. By participating in Robert Lee Brewer’s daily challenge, I was able to write a poem most every day. I’d have to say that this little piece of the world (Palm Desert) provides ample inspiration: the snow-capped mountain tops, the colors of sunrise and sunset, abundant flora and birds. While most of our hemisphere moves into spring, the desert inches its way toward summer weather with temperatures predicted for the 100′s next week. The flowers are fading and the grass is not quite so lush.
When we get back to Reno, we will plunge back into early spring and all the unpredictabilites of the northern Sierra weather (it snowed last week). The garden will scream for attention. The business of packing up to go home will be replaced by the craziness of daily routines and annual appointments…catching up on reality. It’s not so easy to find time to write or to touch into creativity in a place like this, but so many writers and poets manage to do so wherever they are, whatever their responsibilities. Kudos to us for pursuing our passion, our divine life purpose.
This year in the desert, it’s been Mockingbird who captured my attention. In American Indian tradition, Mockingbird comes into our lives to remind us that we are called to recognize and sing our Sacred Song. I’ll miss the reminders, the lilt of it’s call, but hope to remember the gifts of the desert.
My very Catholic background is steeped in ritual and is (and always will be, I assume) an integral part of who I am. I’m not speaking here of superstition or rote utterances, but processes that invite me to pray or to create.
This morning I read an article in the most recent Writer’s Digest in which readers shared their writing rituals. My own vary from time-to-time, but I do find that there are ways to create an environment and mood for practising our art.
One technique that I’ve used in the past is to bless my writing space. I light a candle on my desk and ask my angels and God to be with me as I work. Sometimes, I’ll use incense. I write best in a place of quiet and comfort. Right now, this is a challenge since our two little dogs love to be close. They will jump on my lap (and threaten my manuscript) and want to snuggle.
Many writers enjoy writing in public places such as coffee shops or libraries. Because of my distractable mind, this doesn’t usually bode well for me, but bringing a notebook to such a location has been the source of story lines and descriptions.