Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28

Write Now: Finding Inspiration

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” —Robert Frost

Let’s get something out of the way: writers do not need to feel inspired before they sit down to write. Or perhaps I should say that professional writers are sufficiently afraid of not being able to pay rent that they’re able to conjure up inspiration. As Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Today, I would like to discuss what inspires me, what motivates me to write, and it turns out to be a long list. So, in no particular order:

Past Trauma

I think the best writing is emotionally evocative, causing the reader to feel fear, hate, loss, sadness, happiness, joy or regret.

What was a low time in your life? A dark hour? Think of it, concentrate on that memory. Slip into it. What were you feeling? Thinking? At the time, were you thinking clearly? How did your emotions change over time? Why did your emotions change? Did someone help you through your trauma or did you get through it in spite of those around you?

Now think of a character. It could be one that you have created; for instance, it could be the protagonist from your work in progress. It could also be a character from your favorite movie or TV show. Make that character an actor in your traumatic situation. Perhaps they can take on the role of one of the other people in your memory. Maybe they become you.

Now ask yourself, how would this have changed the situation? What would this character do differently? What would the new ending be, or would everything have turned out the same, regardless?

This is one way to take your raw emotions and weave them into a fictionalized environment, merging the unique, the painfully personal, and the general archetypal kinds of life events we’ve all suffered through. (For example, finding out that someone you love more than life doesn’t feel the same way about you.)

Past Triumph

Repeat the exercise we just did (Past Trauma) but now do it with a wonderful memory rather than a traumatic one. Think of a wonderful time of your life. Think of an event at which you were giddily, all-consumingly, happy. Close your eyes and slip into the memory.

How did your body feel? Were you outside or inside? Was it sunny out? Rainy? Who was with you? Why were you so happy? How did the people you were with (if any) respond to your happiness? Were they happy you were happy or were they jealous? How did the event end?

If you could go back in time and relive the event again, would you do anything differently? How would the character from your WIP react if put in exactly the same situation?

Writing Prompts

I love writing prompts! A good prompt—or perhaps just one suited to my particular creative temperament—can conjure up a strange new world.

I used to publish a new writing prompt every day. Just today I began corralling those into a Google+ collection imaginatively entitled, “Writing Prompts.” ;-) I plan to, one day, have all my writing prompts there. I find they’re a great way to kick-start my day.

I don’t have space to go into all of these in depth, but here is a list of possible sources of inspiration:

Friends and Family
A Writing Journal
Google Maps, Street View
Blog Posts
Movies and TV
Free Writing

These are just a few of the ways I get inspiration. I would be really interested to hear how you find inspiration to write. What sort of things do you think about, what kind of things feed your soul?

Thanks it for today! Good writing and talk to you again on Monday.

Saturday, November 17

The Nature of Creativity: Science And Writing: Don't Edit Yourself

The Nature of Creativity: Science And Writing: Don't Edit Yourself

Sometimes characters refuse to do what you want. You finish your outline, complete with a heartwarming theme and everything looks great. Then you sit down to write and ... Nothing. Your characters refuse to cooperate almost as though they had wills of their own. Damn them.

Other times it's as though your characters are acting in a play you didn't write. They do wonderful and interesting things, unexpected things. All you have to do is write down the story unfolding in your mind.

I've had both these experiences, as I'm sure you have, and we all prefer the second type. Especially during NaNoWriMo when we don't have a lot of time to coax characters to play nice.

The point is ... yes, there is one! ... that our characters often behave, for better or worse, as though they have a will of their own.

Science Is Beginning To Understand Creative Processes

Recently Science has shed some light on this phenomenon and, in the process, revealed two things I believe are of special interest to writers:

1) When characters act as though they have wills of their own, they kinda do.

2) All things being equal, it's probably better to pants your first draft.

Let's take each of these in turn:

1) Pants Your First Draft

Neuroscientists Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun recently put rappers inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and asked them to freestyle. (That's one sentence I never thought I'd write!) Why? Because they're trying to understand the creative process.

Specifically, Liu and Braun were wondering whether the areas of the brain which regulate its own activity would be MORE active or LESS active when a subject was engaged in creative pursuits. It turns out they're less active, far less active.

What does that mean? Braun says, “We think what we see is a relaxation of ‘executive functions’ to allow more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processes to occur that might be the hallmark of creativity.” [1]

In other words, stepping back, being uncritical--just letting it happen--is what creativity is all about.

What does this mean for writers? All things considered, try to pants your first draft. 

You can still have an outline, but don't let it get in the way of your creative flow. Just let it happen. If you have to throw out your outline, do it! After your first draft is done, or even after you've finished writing for the day, you can go back to your outline and adjust it as needed.

2) Your Characters REALLY DO Have Wills Of Their Own ... At Least It Seems That way

Liu and Braun think that decreased activity in certain areas of the brain, those involved in self-regulation, could explain why artists sometimes have the sensation of their performance having “occurred outside of conscious awareness”. For instance, those rare times when it seems your story is unfolding of its own accord and all you have to do is write it down.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if science could give us tips on how to make this happen more often?

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NaNoWriMo Update: I have 31,010 words and am shooting to get up to 33k tonight. I'm starting to feel we're nearing the end. Yea!! :-)

Other articles you might like:

- Pixar Luminary Andrew Stanton's TED Talk: Make Your Reader Care
- Time Management For Writers: Nanny For Chrome
- Tucker Max's Advice: Become Your Own Publisher And Triple Your Royalties


1) Brain Scans of Rappers Shed Light on Creativity, Daniel Cressey and Nature magazine. Thanks to The Passive Voice Blog for a link to this article.

Photo credit: "shadows on the wall" by AlicePopkorn under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.