Tag Archives: inspiration

Inspiration By Free Association

11 Sep
Isaac Asimov Quote

Isaac Asimov Quote (Photo credit: Psychology Pictures)

Isaac Asimov is widely regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction, and as one of the better writers in recent history. He was also one of the most prolific authors every. He wrote hundreds upon hundreds of short stories, dozens of novels… I could go on. A lot, basically. One of his most recognized accomplishments was without a doubt the Foundation series. If you haven’t read that, then A, what have you been doing all your life, and B, go read it now. Seriously. Right now.
Besides being a generally brilliant author and fount of creativity, Asimov also had a useful tool which he used often. Inspiration by free association. He once said that he would open a book in two or three places, choose a few words and random, and build a plot based on those words.
There’s method to Asimov’s madness. Being stuck usually means that you have absolutely no idea where to start, but the actual starting point is not necessarily important in itself. So free association can often get you kick-started in a direction you would never have thought of.
Next time you want to write something but haven’t the faintest clue where to begin, try Asimov’s trick. Open a book and choose some words. Inspiration by free association. It even rhymes – what more can you ask for?

Making Use of Bonus Days Off

2 Sep

Happy Labor Day (to everyone in the US)! The last “official” day of summer, I guess. Back where I come from (there was a song in there, somewhere) today is the last that beaches and pools are open and all of the lifeguards get to go back to their normal lives. Me, I get a long weekend and an extra day off to do whatever I want.

What do you do when you get the magical bonus of a long weekend? Lounge around? Entertain family? What are you doing with your extra days off? The holidays are coming (Halloween is coming! I can’t wait!)

Why not make part of your bonus days off a little more productive. I’m not saying bury yourself in writing. That may or may not be the most productive use of your time. Many holidays have festivals and events that go along with them. This weekend, for example, was the Disneyland Half Marathon. Now, I didn’t get in on THOSE festivities, but I’m sure there are many other places to get into trouble if I look hard enough.

If you are going to be out and around on extra day off, why not try to catch some interesting conversation bits that you might not catch any other time? Grab details on settings that might be fleeting and elusive. Don’t forget, you may have your phone with you and you can send yourself a text message or you can use apps on a smart phone. Capture details that you might be able to use later.  Snap a few pictures that might not be what you would ordinarily take wherever you are, something that might bring  back the setting or might just be interesting.  At the mall?  Grab a shot of the food court or an interesting store.  See a few interesting people (I live in a place where three town are renown for being Weird, Unusual and “between a rock and a weird place”, there are always interesting people).  Homeless guy?  Panhandler that  has a unique angle (juggling maybe or break dancing).  Capture it.  File it away (organize your digital files so you can easily retrieve things).

You may not need the information now, but you never know when it might come in handy. You may, one day, need to put one of your characters in a family picnic or a beach party, you may want to set a backdrop to something.

Make use of whatever time you have and whatever place you may find yourself. If you can’t use it now, squirrel it away somewhere. You may, one day, be glad for the little details you ferreted out when you were enjoying your down time!

Honing Your Ideas

12 Aug

Great ideas don’t come often. They say inspiration can strike like lightning out of a clear blue sky, and it can. But, like lightning, it very rarely does. But when inspiration does

 

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 hit you, utilize it to its fullest potential.
One of the easiest ways to waste a really good idea is to start too soon. Say you’re reading a book about cell damage, and you suddenly have an amazing idea – you could write about a scientist who uses cell damage as a weapon to become a villain. Or something of the sort. Without thinking too much, you turn on your computer and start writing. Within five minutes, you’re stuck and confused, fifteen lines in and already written into a corner. Frustrated and annoyed, you turn off the computer and never think of the idea again.
This kind of scenario happens to me personally all the time, and it’s always for the same reason. Not thinking things through.
There’s a sort of idea in every person’s head that the best writing happens without thinking, by just letting words happen on a page until a masterpiece rolls luxuriously out of the printer. But in my experience, the opposite is almost always true. The longer I let an idea wallow in my brain before trying to write it, the better it will generally be. Just thinking about an idea for a while allows you to develop it, to let it simmer gently before bringing it to a boil.
Think of great ideas. Think about great ideas. Let great ideas form and coalesce into a finished form. Then, and only then, set your great ideas free.

 

Writing Naturally

22 Jul

You know those times when you really get into the zone and just write for hours, and it just flows? When you don’t even think about it and you just produce paragraphs? It doesn’t come often to most people, but when you do manage to get into that state, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Each person is different, of course, and what works for one does not necessarily work for anyone else, but sometimes getting into the zone can be nothing more than a matter of putting together the right circumstances. I just had one those amazing “in the zone” writing sessions, so I’ll try to recreate the experience.
I’ve found myself writing in the strangest places and times, so when someone said they were driving to the beach this morning, I picked up my computer and got in the car. The weather’s pretty hot, so the beach was crowded. My friend went to the beach, and I went in search of a quiet place to work. There’s a wave-breaker surrounding the coast of the beach where I was at, so I walked along that. The wave-breaker consists of a few hundred two-ton cement blocks in weird, intertwining shapes, with a lighthouse at the very end of the pier. That’s where I sat. I climbed down the cement blocks, and found myself a comfortable position.
The sea was running a little high, so the waves sprayed a fine mist with each crash. Once in a while the water got all the way up to where I was sitting. The sun was baking down, and I was encased in a salty, briny sea-smell. You wouldn’t think that any writing could get done in a place like that. But it was perfect. I ended up sitting in that exact position for about five hours. In one sitting, I wrote three chapter of a book and an article. It was an amazing feeling.

Flagler Beach

Flagler Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, getting out your comfort zone can be the best thing to give your muse a little nudge. If you move out of your box, it can help you think out of the box. And it can also help you learn a little more about what helps you write. I know for a fact that I’ll be heading out to write in nature a little more often, just because I felt how awesome it was. So give it a try. Write in a place you’ve never written before. In a forest, at the beach, at the top of a mountain. Go somewhere else to write, and watch your writing go somewhere it’s never gone before.

Inspiration!

20 Jun

So, I’m always up for different ideas that I can use to tickle my inspiration.  Sometimes they end up taking me places I didn’t plan on going, sometimes they make me realize that there are some topics I just can’t chase very far.

I buy books, I hound websites, and I just start writing about random things.

One of my favorite trilogies is Your First 1,000 Days in Writerspark/ Your First 2,000 Days in Writerspark/ Your First 3,000 Days in Writerspark.  Three years’ worth of prompts in each book!  These books were based on a Yahoo Group “Writerspark”.

The fabulous news is, the moderator of the group is back and they are, once again, accepting new members!  This morning, I got a deluge of new prompts!  I’m avidly looking forward to prompts showing up in my email box every day!  I’m just as avidly looking forward to being able to stretch my edges and explore ideas I might not have been able to come up with on my own.

I’m wading through the new prompts, pulling them into my own PDF so I can take them with me on my tablet device and write when I have a few minutes to stretch.

How about you?  Where to you get ideas when you need to find new ways to exercise your writing muscles?  To come up with angles on things that are a little different than what you are used to?

This Yahoo group is supportive and will provide constructive critiques for writing samples if anyone wants to take a chance on it.

As for me, I’m going to venture forth and write about my desk!

Exercise #3740

The Desk

Compose a piece of no more than 750 words that shows the contents of a desktop in such a way that the images provide a sense of the person who uses the desk.

Random Inspiration (finding the smallest details that you need in creative places)

3 Jun

So, I’ve been thinking again (I hate when that happens) about writer’s block and where ideas come from.  I know how to feed my dragon when I have an idea and I just can’t get to the details.  And that usually works for me very well.  But there are so many times when there are hundreds or thousands of butterfly words chasing each other around in my head and I don’t know what order they want to take, or what subject they want to settle on. I just can’t find one subject that will make them happy.

Other times, I have kind of an idea for a setting where I want something to happen, but I really want to have a more concrete idea, a more real picture of what I’m struggling with.  I can’t quite get it right in my mind’s eye.  And when that happens, I can’t get passed it until I can figure out what might be the tiniest detail.

There are incredible places on line where you can find random pictures that can feed your imagination.  You can search for pictures of things, like red door or ugly car.  Or you can find random pictures that speak to you.  Flickr will let you find pictures that were randomly recently uploaded.  They can fuel your thought process, or you can decide that your character is the one uploading them and figure out what he might be thinking as he turns then lose into the wild.

The internet can be an incredible place to waste time.  But it can be a font of information to tap into.  Use whatever tools that might fall to your hands (photography books in the library, google images, or the two places I enjoy hunting:

http://www.flickr.com/explore

http://photobucket.com

Finding the Time and Place for Nurturing Youself

27 Apr

It’s been a busy week for me. I know that I end up saying that most weeks, but this week was busier than most at my day job. I had a class to teach and a lot of busy work to get done. I’m three days from being able to claim I wrote a poem a day, every day, for NaPoWriMo. Not all stress is bad stress! By yesterday I was almost completely burned out on day job and really needing to find a way to center myself and get my muse back on.
I took a longish lunch (who knew longish was really a word!) and went to a local indie bookstore that is always good to spend time in and soak up the atmosphere. I rarely buy any books there, sometimes one of the eclectic journals to write in, sometimes an artsy fartsy pen, but the books I end up promising myself for later.
The floors are well worn wood. The shelves are randomly placed. The stairs to the second floor are wide and winding and the tread shows the marks of thousands upon thousands of visitors. There are backpacks (locally made) and gypsy skirts hanging, cases of local artist art work and Buddhist and Hindu statues. And the incense that fills the air adds to the feel. The ambiance of the place is as much what I go for. And it works. It never fails to help me find the place in myself where I can be still and connect with myself and remember why I am who I am. Why I write. It quietly calls to my muse.
This is how I find the time to connect with myself.
What is yours? Find the place, your back yard, a park, a flower garden or beside some running water, where you can connect with yourself. Somewhere that you can go (even a somewhere within yourself if you can find the stolen time to go there) that can replenish your soul. I know that, as writers we are supposed to be able to take all of those stolen moments and use them productively to write. This is especially true when we are busy writers with other busy lives. Nurture yourself and your writing will show the results.
But sometimes the most productive thing you can do for yourself is find that place and go there to nurture yourself. Sometimes, it can be a place where you escape to do your writing. When that is the case, it is the best of both worlds. But when you can’t use it as your writing space, escape there whenever the need arises. Capture the look and feel. Take pictures or video. We all have phones with us all the time; why not make use of it? Use the pictures on your vision board or your computer as a gentle reminder.
Be gentle with yourself, fair writer, and do whatever it takes to keep yourself on this wonderfully, sometimes stressful, magical road we find yourselves walking together!

It’s Okay To Fail

21 Apr

“Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men, and men are great only if they are determined to be so.” 
― Charles de Gaulle

I’m not as great as I think I am.

I know that, of course, but I forget sometimes. I’m not great. I’ll always know I’m not perfect, but I’m not great either.

When I remember this and realize what a pretentious fool I am, my self-esteem swings over to the other extreme, but-

I’m not as bad as I think I am either.

I want to be great. I want to get better in my craft. I don’t want to be sidetracked by my delusions of grandeur, nor depressed by my realizations of worthlessness. I want to get at the writing without all of this piling up on me.

I want to tell myself every day, before I start writing:  “You aren’t great. That’s why it’s okay to fail.” Because, when I think I am great I need to be great or perfect or marvelous or whatever. I get hung up over the details. I stop writing because I’m done, I’m great, I don’t need to get better.

And when I think I’m awful, I don’t even want to try. Why on earth should I? I’ll never be great. So-

It’s okay to fail.

Perfect is a myth. Failure is human – it means you’re on the right track.

It’s okay to fail.

You’re not as great as you think you are.

And that’s fine.

Because you’re getting there.

beautiful

What is a Writer?

7 Apr

what-is-a-writer

I asked myself the other day,

Why am I a writer, what made me that way?
That question’s ad hominem, it asks about me,
But it’s true of all writers, counting you thine and thee
Because when you sit, and examine that question
Writing’s more than a job, not just a profession
A person who writes, whether tiny or small
Is always unique, from the first word they scrawl
So now, let me see, we’ve defined some new terms,
A writer’s a creature, not a snail or some germs
But how do they form? Do they pass some hard test?
Or perhaps are they hatched, from an egg, in a nest?
Now I still don’t have an answer to the question I asked,
But now I have new ones, they are rising quite fast
Is there more than one kind, is it decided by age
Can a man be a writer if he’s not old and sage?
To answer all this we might have to digress
Because it is I who must also confess
I don’t have the answers, I don’t know who’s a writer
I just know that I am one, more than lover or fighter
And I don’t know you, I can’t tell if you are
I don’t know if you rhyme or your thinking’s bizarre
Yet one thing I’ll say, and this fact I ensure
If you think you’re a writer, then you are, to be sure
This poem was written by an author of The Writing Corp. To see more poems by the same writer, hop on over to nesherehrman.wordpress.com/
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