Why you aren’t writing – Reason #4

48a7559f5355d7a30e4ac3fcda051ca7This week I’m writing about how to write when you’re out of ideas.

I’m convinced that we can find endless triggers to get the words flowing if we tune in and pay attention. Ideas are EVERYWHERE. Before we get to my list (not all inclusive, by any means) of ways to load up your idea hopper, think about doing this by using each of your senses individually. In fact, if you devote an entire day (or week) to focusing on each sense, my bet is you’ll have more ideas than you know what to do with. (And if this happens, refer to my blog post on how to write when you have too many ideas.) Begin with the snippets you generate and build on them. Before you know it, you’ll have full-blown stories in the works.

Look. Rather than just go through your day on autopilot, slow yourself down and really LOOK at all the beautiful and miraculous people, places, and things you encounter every single day. Stop long enough to take in the details of a face or a hand, the lines of a building, a room and its contents, and the form and color of the ordinary items you use every day. Make a mental picture or take a picture on your phone for later reference (unless it will get you into some kind of trouble), or sit down in the moment and write – in detail – what you see. Plant yourself in a public place (like a coffee shop or a park) and you’ll have more than enough seeds to get going: Describe the old man eating alone on a bench at the park or the young woman with the cast on her foot at the coffee shop, then begin to imagine their stories. Why are they there? Where did they come from? Where will they go when they leave? Who do they love? Who loves them?

Observe art. Get online, or better yet, visit a museum. Find at least five pieces that resonate with you. You don’t have to know why. Just sit and write a description of each of them. What’s going on in the painting or photograph? What’s the story behind the sculpture? OR, name the emotion(s) each piece brings up in you. Attach that emotion to an event or a character and go from there.

Pay attention to colors. Colors evoke emotion in us. Focus on a color and write about it. What memories does it trigger in you? What does it symbolize? What object(s) does the color affix itself to in your mind: a coat, a car, a dress, a building…?

 

Listen. As with looking, slow down and really begin to listen to the symphony of sounds that make up your world. As I write this, the refrigerator’s motor is running behind me – a soft, windy sound embedded with a bright, high-pitched tone. The sound of kids playing on the playground – a cacophony of voices that rise and fall, squealing with glee, making protests, and shouting orders, occasionally punctuated by their male teacher’s voice and the echo-y bounce of a rubber ball on the cement. The clicking of my staccato keyboard strokes. The hiss of a bus’s brakes slowing at the corner.

Write down song lyrics that resonate with you and riff on them for several minutes.

Sit in nature and note the ambiance. Notice the plethora of subtle sounds around you. Focus in on 1-3 of the sounds you hear, and imagine a character listening to each sound. What is he/she doing? How does the sound fit in with, influence, or affect the moment he/she is experiencing?

Eavesdrop on conversations. Sitting in a public place and turning into what’s being said around you is a great way to generate dialogue and story ideas. All you need is one unusual comment or question to get you going.

 

Smell. While I’m a filmmaker and avid film viewer and believe film to be a powerful change instigator, it can’t evoke our imaginations around smell the way the written word can. As you go through your day, make a list of all the smells you encounter. Write down their sources, then write at least one paragraph for each in which you describe the smell in detail. (This is not easy!) Then, imagine what’s going on around that smell and let your imagination do the rest.

 

Touch. As with smell, touch doesn’t translate in film, nor is it easy to write, but give it a try. For a week, pick five textures per day, and spend time touching each one. Use ordinary items from your day (your coffee cup, your bedspread) or seek out new ones. (Try visiting a fabric store and touch a variety of fabrics, find textures in nature, or visit a walk around your town or city to see what you can find.) Write at least one paragraph for each. Describe the feeling of each one. (Hint: Using metaphor/simile will come in handy here.) But don’t limit this to what you can touch with your fingers. Also think about textures of food in the mouth.

 

Taste. And speaking of the mouth, don’t forget taste. Set out to focus on all the possible options (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami – a new one to me. Read about it here and here). Spend a week planning your meal options around food to explore the full spectrum of possible tastes. Brainstorm what situations might align with each taste, and a story will unfold. (For example: Sweet. Cotton candy. Carnival. Who’s there? What’s he/she doing?)

 

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Johnnie
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Why You Aren’t Writing – Reason #1

I recently wrote about 10 beliefs that sabotage writing.

This week, I’m writing about Reason #1: You don’t have time.

by Snoron.com

by Snoron.com

Here’s the first thing you need to know. Time is a construct.

Sure, we all have responsibilities, and we all generally have to meet deadlines or carry out duties within a specified time frame for work and in our daily lives. But… we are not at the mercy of time. Time does not have to dictate our every decision, our quality of life, or whether or not we write.

Chances are, you have more time than you realize. That is, if you’re a person who believes that time is something you possess.

Besides the obvious obvious approach of adding more time to your day by waking up an hour or two earlier (Try it. I started waking up at 5am, and it completely changed my productivity.), you can collect time and save it.

Think of it like a money jar you keep on the counter. You throw spare change in when you have it, and after a year has passed, you’ve saved enough to buy something for yourself you otherwise would not have been able to buy.

Time works the same way. Think of it as energy that you can gather and shape shift.

The best way to see where you can start saving up time is to do exactly what you’d do if you were trying to figure out where you can save money.

You do an inventory.

  • For at least one week – preferably two – track your time every day. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. This may sound tedious and anal, but you’ll be amazed by how much time you’re likely squandering every single day. Notice how much time you spend buying and preparing food, checking and answering emails, watching videos online, having unproductive conversations (or conversations that go on long past the length of time the issue at hand requires), doing laundry, practicing self care, on social media, exercising, and on and on.
  • Look for ways to shave time. If you’re spending an hour and a half at the gym, chances are, you can cut your workout routine down to an hour and still get the same benefit. Make meals in batches ahead of time and freeze them. Unsubscribe from email lists that clutter your inbox so you’re only tempted to read the ones that truly pertain to your life and your interests. Give yourself a social media time allowance and stick to it. You get the idea…
  • Check for patterns. After your week (or two) of inventory, if you see that every day around 11:00am you get bored and spend an hour on social media, but realize that only 10 minutes of that hour were spent productively, you can add 50 mins. to your time bank and start a new habit of only spending the necessary 10 minutes to accomplish your task. Do this for every task you perform every day.
  • Decide when you’re going to use the time you’ve collected. Figure out when you’re the freshest, when no one else is home, or whenever the optimal time of day might be for you.
  • Make a vow to use your time to write. Follow through and use your extra time to write. Think about this: If you saved $2,000 for that trip you’ve been wanting to take but then blew it all on slot machines, how crummy would you feel?

Now that you’ve figured out how much extra time you really have, don’t blow it carelessly.

Treat it as something sacred. Because it is.

How much extra time were you able to find?