Showing posts with label muse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label muse. Show all posts

Friday, May 30

3 Ways To Attract Ideas

3 Ways To Attract Ideas

If there's one question authors hate with a white hot flaming passion it's this one: Where do your ideas come from?

When asked this Harlan Ellison likes to say, "Schenectady." If pressed, he might add that every week he sends the service in Schenectady $25 and they send back a fresh six-pack of ideas. (For this and more on Harlan Ellison watch the documentary of his life and work: Dreams With Sharp Teeth.)

Neil Gaiman has written and talked about this subject often and with his customary thoughtfulness and wit.

But that's not what I'm talking about, not quite.

Attracting Ideas

Often, when I write my zero draft, I'll come to a spot and realize: that's not enough. I need something else. I need another character, another arc. Or perhaps I just know deep in my gut that I need something. Preferably something significant and interesting, something that will startle and amaze and hook the reader.

And sometimes the microsecond I realize this my mind goes blank. When this happens there are three things I do.

1. Take  a walk.

On a walk I can let my mind untether itself and wander, retreating from the multitude of daily cares that weigh it down. As my mind wanders sometimes an idea pops in.

2. Take a shower.

I don't know what it is about the shower but I've found taking one a great way of attracting ideas. Perhaps it's the sound, the feel of water flowing over skin, perhaps it's being momentarily cut off and immersed in one's private world. One feels freed to let one's mind free, to shift gears and dream.

Lately, though, I've found another way to attract ideas. A way analogous to gazing at the shifting colors of a kaleidoscope or to cloud gazing.

3. Use picture cards.

Yesterday I was writing a scene ... or trying to. I knew my characters, I knew the setting, and I knew that something new and completely different would happen at the end, something that would spin the story in another direction.

Something would happen. But what?!

I bought a couple of decks of Tall Tale cards weeks ago, the original and their Fairy Tales pack.

As I looked through the cards and thought about my scene certain cards felt right, so I put those to the side. I then took a look at the cards I'd selected and thought about what each card had in common with each of the other cards.

In this way I began to tell myself a mini-story with pictures. As I played, an idea popped in. Ah! It was the solution to my dilemma, the twist that would grab my story and send it in a new direction. (And the solution wasn't--or at least didn't seem to be--directly related to any of the cards I had chosen.)

I've tried that a few times, taking cards out and idly looking through them, seeing if anything pops. I think that perhaps pictures are a good way to communicate with my muse.

Of course, what works for me might only work for me! Though I doubt it.

Also, though I do like the Tell Tale cards, I imagine that any cards with images on them would do just fine.

When you get stuck on a story, what do you do to attract ideas?

Photo credit: "Amsterdam Calling" by Vieira_da_Silva under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, January 22

Ray Bradbury On How To Keep And Feed A Muse

Ray Bradbury On How To Keep And Feed A Muse

"If science fiction is escapist, it's escape into reality," Isaac Asimov

 "... writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that," Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury's, Zen In The Art Of Writing, is soul food.

I love Ray Bradbury's writing. Something Wicked This Way Comes had a profound influence on me as a young writer--but for some reason, even though it was recommended again and again, I neglected to read Ray Bradbury's book on writing.

That, I realize now, was a mistake.

How To Keep And Feed A Muse

The chapter I'm reading at the moment is How to Keep and Feed a Muse. Mr. Bradbury gives some remarkably detailed advice.

What To Feed Your Muse

1. A lifetime of experiences.

We must feed ourselves on life.
It is my contention that in order to Keep a Muse, you must first offer food. How you can feed something that isn't yet there is a little hard to explain. But we live surrounded by paradoxes. One more shouldn't hurt us.

The fact is simple enough. Through a lifetime, by ingesting food and water, we build cells, we grow, we become larger and more substantial. ...

Similarly, in a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and  experiences and our reaction to them. Into our subconscious go not only factual data but reactive data, our movement toward or away from the sensed events.
These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows.

2. Read poetry every day.

What kind of poetry? "Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don't force yourself too hard. Take it easy."

3. Books of essays.

You can never tell when you might want to know the finer points of being a pedestrian, keeping bees, carving headstones, or rolling hoops. Here is where you play the dilettante, and where it pays to do so. You are, in effect, dropping stones down a well. Every time you hear an echo from your Subconscious, you know yourself a little better. A small echo may start an idea. A big echo may result in a story.
.  .  .  .
Why all this insistence on the senses? Because in order to convince your reader that he is there, you must assault each of his senses, in turn, with color, sound, taste, and texture. If your reader feels the sun on his flesh, the wind fluttering his shirt sleeves, half your fight is won. The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader, through his senses, feels certain that he stands at the middle of events. He cannot refuse, then, to participate. The logic of events always gives way to the logic of the senses.

4. Read short stories and novels.

Read those authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think. But also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years. Here again, don't let the snobbery of others prevent you from reading Kipling, say, while no one else is reading him.

How To Keep Your Muse

Ray Bradbury advises that not only should we write every day, but that we should write 1,000 words a day for 10 or 20 years!

Great advise. Truly excellent. Myself, though, I hope it doesn't take 20 years! Of course, if it does, it does. Writing is the kind of thing that, if one can be discouraged from it, one probably should be.
And while feeding, How to Keep Your Muse is our final problem.

The Muse must have shape. You will write a thousand words a day for ten or twenty years in order to try to give it shape, to learn enough about grammar and story construction so that these become part of the Subconscious, without restraining or distorting the Muse.

By living well, by observing as you live, by reading well and observing as you read, you have fed Your Most Original Self. By training yourself in writing, by repetitious exercise, imitation, good example, you have made a clean, well-lighted place to keep the Muse. You have given her, him, it, or whatever, room to turn around in. And through training, you have relaxed yourself enough not to stare discourteously when inspiration comes into the room.

You have learned to go immediately to the typewriter and preserve the inspiration for all time by putting it on paper.


Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff you have collected in a lifetime.

Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are—the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.
.  .  .  .
Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven't friends. Go find some.
#   #   #

I haven't contributed a lot of commentary, above, because ... well, what could I add? One thing Mr. Bradbury said--I didn't include the quotation--was that he wrote 3,000,000 words before his first story was accepted at the age of 20.

Three million words!

Add to that, Mr. Bradbury wrote every day, every single day. He must have had a well fed, and very content, muse.

What is your favorite book on writing? What is the best writing advice you've received?

Other articles you might like:

- Fleshing Out Your Protagonist: Creating An Awesome Character
- Dean Koontz And 5 Things Every Genre Story Needs
- How Plotting Can Build A Better Story

Photo credit: "Dust" by Robb North under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, November 23

How To Become More Creative: Nurturing Your Muse

How To Become More Creative: Nurturing Your Muse

If the first rule of writing is "writers write" then a close second is "writers read".

I haven't been reading. Sure, there are reasons--too busy, don't want to use it to procrastinate, haven't found a book I love, and so on--but for the past few days getting my 2,000 words a day for NaNoWriMo has been like an exercise in self-torture.

Yesterday I had one of those 'light bulb' moments where I realized my problem might be that I haven't read enough, so I downloaded a book from my local library and started reading. Or, to be precise, listening.

Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but I stayed up till 7 am listening to that book! I just couldn't stop. I think my muse was starving.

Nurturing Your Muse

This is why, for my second post today, I want to talk about ways to nurture the muse within us all.

The following is from a post over at The Creativity Post called 101 Tips on How to Become More Creative by Michael Michalko.
1. Take a walk and look for something interesting.

3. Open a dictionary and find a new word. Use it in a sentence.

6. Create the dumbest idea you can.

7. Ask a child.

10. Create an idea that will get you fired.

11. Read a different newspaper. If you read the Wall Street Journal, read the Washington Post.

14. What is your most bizarre idea?

15. List all the things that bug you.

16. Take a different route to work.

22. Doodle

24. Go for a drive with the windows open. Listen and smell as you drive.

40. Daydream.

50. Eat spaghetti with chopsticks.

51. Make the strange familiar.

52. Make the familiar strange.

55. Wear purple underwear for inspiration

63. When you wake write down everything you can remember about your dreams.

69. Talk to a stranger.

75. Change your daily routines. If you drink coffee, change to tea.

85. Learn to tolerate ambiguity.

86. What have you learned from your failures? What have you discovered that you didn’t set out to discover?

87. Make connections between subjects in different domains. Banking + cars = drive in banking.

90. Hang out with people from diverse backgrounds.

96. Sit outside and count the stars.

99. Cut out interesting magazine and newspaper pictures. Then arrange and paste them on a board making a collage ...
I hope your muse is well-fed and willing to help spin your tales! If you have any tips you'd like to add, please do. :-)

Other articles you might like:
- For NaNoWriMo: 10 HarperCollins Books On Writing For $1.99 Each
- Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales
- The Nature of Creativity: Science And Writing: Don't Edit Yourself

Photo credit: "untitled" by 416style under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, September 12

The Role Of The Unconscious In Writing

The Role Of The Unconscious In Writing
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Philippines

Have you ever had a song looping through your head that just wouldn't go away? Have you ever broken down and played the darn thing and listened to the lyrics?

That's what happened to me today. A catchy fragment of a tune I hadn't heard, or even thought of, in years began looping through my mind. I'd think it was gone and then I'd find myself singing the blasted thing! Finally I broke down and listened to the song on YouTube.

I was stunned. Something has been going on in my life and it was as though the lyrics--which I no longer consciously remembered--were lecturing me. This got me to thinking about the role of the unconscious in writing.

In Write Away, Elizabeth George shares the following:
When I'm on to the right story, the right location, the right situation, the right theme, my body tells me. I feel a surge of excitement in my solar plexus that literally sends the message Yes yes yes! to my brain. Until I feel that surge of inner excitement, I remain in the pre-plotting stage simply because I have nothing to plot about." (p 47-8) (The Role of the Subconscious in Writing Fiction)
In his essay It All Began With a Picture ... (published in Of Other Worlds) C.S. Lewis tells how his The Chronicles of Narnia series began with a picture:
[The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe] all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.'
. . . .
At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after him. (Wikipedia, The Chronicles of Narnia)
I want to begin a dream journal and write down what I remember of my dreams each morning. I'm interested in how the simple act of trying to remember my dreams would affect my writing.

Other articles you might be interested in:
- Writing Resources
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?
- Becoming An Organizational Genius: The Tickler File

Photo credit: Paul Chin