Whether you write for a living, work outside the home or manage a household, there are times when you wonder why you keep writing. Writing creatively, for the sake of it and because well, your awesome fiction should be in print, damn it.
I do. This writing biz is not for sissies and it’s certainly not one of those professions where you see results instantly.
It took years for me to be build up a portfolio as a freelance writer but I didn’t give up and it’s given me the opportunity to work with a vast and diverse group of people and professionals.
But writing fiction is a whole other animal and it not only takes discipline and dedication, but a masochistic kind of solitary confinement. “Never Give Up” is taken to a whole new level.
Sometimes the best thing to do is get outside yourself. Get outside. Walk. Explore. Talk to people. Revisit. Below are five things that have inspired scenes, narration and dialogue for me.
1. Go to a public place packed with people
Sit there and listen or strike up a conversation. I once sat at Penn Station waiting on my train and a young man with a bald head decorated with tattoos, pierced face and ears and a neon blue scarf sat down beside me, chattering away about a job he just got as an assistant for $500 a day. It was fascinating and brought me into a world I didn’t know anything about. He’ll show up in my writing somewhere.
I once asked a lady behind the desk of a customer service’s grocer how her day was going. She seemed a bit surprised I’d even asked but she proceeded to tell me how she was going through “the change” and how that was affecting her life. I’m going to call her Arlene when I write about her.
2. Visit a park, beach — get outside, walk and observe
Nothing inspires more nature. Pick a color or shape and write about it. Carry a notebook or recording device and write/record what you see. Imagine how you can translate it into a way of describing a person or thing.
Focus on a color or shape — you’ll be surprised at what you can come up, comparing those hues/shapes to things, people and emotions. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his Nature, “The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of crimson light.” Wow. He didn’t get that by pacing around in a room waiting for the words to come.
3. Blog, teach and pay it forward
I’m still a newbie at this blogging thing, but it has inspired me to write, if only briefly, almost every day. I put more effort in to some posts than others, but I approach it as not only a way to stretch my imagination but maybe (if anyone reads) that she/he may be inspired. You never know if someone reads what you write and it kickstarts an idea for them. That’s good karma, the golden rule and all that other feel-good stuff — it matters and it will come back to you. Who knows, you may receive a comment (positive or negative) and bingo — there’s some fodder for you to mull over.
4. Take a creative writing class at least once or twice a year
Whenever I’ve taken the time to attend and pay for a good, quality creative writing class, it’s always paid off. It works best for me to actually pay for it (instead of just a free writing group initially); that way I know I’m going to go and I’m held accountable to write something every week. Plus, I get the added benefit of reading others’ work and realizing that there are others, just like me, who are passionate about telling stories. Some classes are more expensive than others, but you can set something aside every week (if you have to) to invest in yourself and your craft. It’s worth it.
5. Revisit old stories you started and never finished
We’ve all got them. They’re in a file or a drawer somewhere and for whatever reason, we let them die. I was looking through my file a couple of days ago and found an attempt at a modern fantasy story I began five or six years. I can’t remember what inspired to start it in the first place (it’s about a conversation with a Christmas elf), but there’s two pages of it, so now I think I’ll finish it and present to those whom I trust to read my work. Seriously, what was I thinking?
Henry James said, “A mighty will, that’s all there is!” Never give up.
It’s a cloudless day with a beautiful blue sky where I am. But the sun kind of looks like a big round sugar cookie so I think I’ll take a bite out of it and see what happens.
What are ways in which you become unstuck?
Sorry Brigitte, I did not get commenting earlier because Mammy duty called….so I just clicked follow …great blog here..loads of great ideas and suggestions, some which has helped me. Thanks for stopping by my blog . I hope you enjoy.
Thank you for stopping by and glad it’s been helpful! I look forward to your posts!
Good advice. I’d like to add that with fiction, it’s the start of a story is difficult. That after thinking over it for awhile one should jump in and start. My teacher for this class I’m taking now, said the first draft needs to just get out there, and then you craft or revise it.
I go outside when I can too, and recomend that as well.
Hey Matt–you’re right. Sounds as if you’re getting some great advice from your instructor and enjoying the class. I read somewhere, “give yourself permission to write badly,” which I guess means exactly what you’re saying. Get it down on paper, then read again, revise and rework! Thanks for the comment and look forward to your next post!
Brigitte – Love these motivational entries!
I totally agree with your suggestion to go to a public place full of people. Some of my best writing days are days when I’m catching a plane out of town. Just being at the airport and imagining lives for all those around me is a fantastic way to kickstart a story.
Also, the other day I was walking through a new neighborhood, one that I’d never been in before. I was completely out of my comfort zone. Something about that discomfort, that whole people-are-strange-when-you’re-a-stranger experience sparks such creativity in me. So I would add to your list: putting yourself in new and unfamiliar (perhaps even uncomfortable) territory.
Thanks for the inspiring posts!
Thanks, Carly and I love your suggestion as well. Look forward to hearing that story that you write!