Wordsmith Wednesday–Kindling Creativity

The flame of wisdom

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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?

Thank you as always for visiting my blog.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Brainstorming Techniques

Mindmapping Diagram credit: Grace Fleming

I do write (and have published) nonfiction articles for magazines and thought today it might be fun to discuss a process called mindmapping which, in the past, I used for problem solving  in the world of health care management. It works for writers, too.

Mindmapping allows you to take in idea and organize your thoughts in a visual manner so that when it’s time to write an outline, you have an idea of where to take it. I believe that this technique works especially well for us right-brained, artistic types who conceptualize using the sense of sight.

When I mindmap, I take a central idea and write smack dab in the middle of a piece of paper and draw a circle around it. That becomes the frame of reference for all that is to follow. Then jot down ideas that spring from the initial prompt and draw a circle around each of them, drawing a line to connect them to the main subject. Each circle will give birth to its own subset of circles until you’ve exhausted the idea.

In the example above, Civil War is the center point. The creator then branched off into two categories: secessions and leaders. Following that, she identified two leaders for the one and years of secession for the other with the states that seceded from them sprouting from each year.

This can work in other areas of writing, too. Let’s play with an example for poetry. I want to write a poem about a frog. Frog will be my center circle. From there I identify 3 sub-circles: visual appearance, sound and environment. I take each of those and branch out into descriptors that apply. For example, for visual appearance I identify size, shape, color–and so on.

In an article I recently wrote for caregivers of persons with dementia, I filled a legal-sized sheet of paper with circles. When it came time to write it, I found I had more than I could cover in one article. This gives me the opportunity to mine this mindmap for multiple articles or even use as the basis for a nonfiction book proposal.

I hope this gives you a tool to serve you in your own writing. As always, I appreciate your feedback–negative or positive–and your ideas! Feel free to comment.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Brainstorming

Sometimes you hit a deadend. The story line comes to a screeching halt and you have no idea how to get from point A to point B. Or in the revision process you have a glaring gap between scenes and you’re stuck for something to help in the transition. That’s happened to me often enough–just this week, in fact.

There are a couple of lifelines I rely on to help me move forward. One is “call a friend.” I find it essential to have a writing buddy or critique group that I can bounce ideas off of. Sit down together and brainstorm. Take a pencil and notebook and let the ideas flow. Maybe you won’t have an eye-opening experience during that session, but I guarantee you that 95% of the time, a golden nugget will emerge that will save you from creative bankruptcy.

Another technique you can use to help you brainstorm is to get out into nature or into a milieu that can transport you to another place. Let your senses take in whatever is happening around you. Listen to sounds and conversations, browse garage sales or bookstores, camp out at Starbucks, or just take a long walk. Give free rein to your mind and wait for the creative Spirit to take over.

And finally, just sleep on it. At bedtime, read a few pages surrounding or preceding  the black hole in your manuscript. Pray–ask to receive ideas that will inspire you to continue then see what happens in the morning. We are not alone in the writing process.