Tag Archives: Writing Ideas

NaNoWriMoNoShaveNo

Mashups are a popular thing, right?

Only if you watch this show.

Wait, let me try that again.

Has this ever happened to you?

You: Hey, I want to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I also want to participate in No Shave November for cancer awareness. I can’t do both at once, can I?

Me: Wait! You can! You CAN do two things at once.

You:

Why yes, in this scenario, you are Bender from Futurama.

Everyday Inspiration

I don’t like to make generalizations, but let’s face it, book lovers and writers tend to be an introverted bunch of people. We like to live vicariously through our stories—which is good because as much as I like reading about the zombie apocalypse, I’d rather not live it.

As far as writers go, most of the ones I know tend to fall on one side of the same coin. They are either, like me, of the get-out-there-and-experience-shit variety—because what better way to write about it? Or, they tend to be of the aforementioned introverted type. The classic writer, locked away in his room typing away.

But it’s important, regardless of what kind of writer you are, to get out there and experience life because inspiration can strike in the strangest of places. Here are just a few tips how:

Take Public Transportation

I have a few poems and short stories that have been inspired by a trip on the bus or train. Buses and other forms of public transit tend to be places where you can find all types of people and personalities. You can be sitting next to someone who’s homeless or someone who owns their own company.

Sometimes, being so close to strangers leads to some pretty memorable experiences.

One time, on my way to the Greyhound station downtown, a couple boarded the MAX together. The woman was swaying and slurring her words. It was 7 a.m. She was saying goodbye to the man she was with, but she wouldn’t leave, no matter how many times he asked her. The lights on the doors flickered. “The doors are closing,” a woman’s voice said on the loud speaker. But each time the door attempted to shut, it was stopped by the woman’s large bottom and wide hips. She swatted at the door like it was a fly.

It was a little funny and sad. And when she started yelling and another man on board started yelling back, a tiny part of me was even afraid. But then it ended. And I wrote it down. An anecdote in a larger story.

Walk Through the City

Building a Mind Palace

Why do all of my very best writing ideas come in the shower? Or, you know, when I’m driving? For some reason, being distracted and unable to jot down any sort of notes is the exact moment when my mind is popping off with wonderful ideas, for academic research as well as for creative writing (heck, even for blog posts!).

Are you like me? I think this is a human thing, not just a weird Amanda thing, so I’m here to offer up some solutions.

First, you can drag your significant other, child, friend, roommate, or paid note taker around with you everywhere you go. Taking a shower? Have them wait outside of the door with a pen and paper in hand to jot down everything you shout out while taking a shower. Driving home? That’s not a problem, because they’re in your passenger seat, with that pen and pad of paper ready to go.

That’s probably not a very viable solution, I admit to that. A tape recorder would probably be a little better, or now of days, a digital voice recorder, but even then you’d have to listen to your own voice on tape (who likes doing that? I don’t) and it’s still not a very viable solution for the shower.

No, what I think writers all need to develop and strengthen is their mind palace. And yes, if you watch Sherlock, I am talking about that kind of mind palace.

I’m only listening because you’re Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is What a 30 Minute Writing Exercise Looks Like

I was about to sit down and start working on a post about the benefits of writing exercises. Doing a simple free write, one that’s about 30 minutes, can vastly improve a writer’s work on multiple levels.

First, it helps generate ideas. Free writing is writing without stopping for a set amount of time. You find you have to keep going. It’s not easy, but if you pause, you’re supposed to just repeat the last word you’ve typed until a new thought pops into your head. Head. Head. Like that. This way, your brain and your brain storming are always working in one direction – forward.

Second, it gets you in the mood to write. Mood is a big thing with writers. We call it writer’s block, we call it Netflix being more appealing, but what it really is is a lack of want to write. Forcing yourself to write anything for 30 minutes or so, nonstop, gets your brain ready and raring to continue the writing process. A free write is a great way of beating writer’s block by not only generating ideas, but by changing your off mode into an on mode when it comes to getting your fingers on the keys.

Third, and yes, this is a pretty repetitive list because I am timing myself and trying to get this all out, out, out, out, out, out, is it gets your body in a physical place to write as well. I type fast, but even I don’t come pre-warmed up on the keyboard. Doing a 30 minute free write helps get my brain in keyboard mode so I can type up a storm. Sometimes, when I get really into what I’m writing, I can go up to 80-100 words per minute. Of course, there are still typos. I never said I was exempt from typos.

There are more benefits that I will come back to, possibly, if I recall them and time doesn’t run out, but I’d like to talk about why I’m illustrating what my 30 minute free write on the topic of 30 minute free writes. I think a lot of us hear about free writing in class or in a tutoring program like the one I work for, but we don’t really put them into use, or we do them for class because we are required to and never think about it again.

And, honestly, how many of us really sit there and repeat words when we’re stuck? We pause. We think. I’m forcing myself to follow the rules laid out in general for a free write so there will be some repeats here, but when I do this on my own I often won’t follow this rule, and I know it. But I should follow this rule because it’s there for a reason. Sometimes when your mind blanks and your fingers are on the keys typing “out, out, out,” a new thought pops into your head based on your previous writing. This is a good thing, go with it.

Free writes (and if you’re counting, this would be fourth) are also great for making connections within your writing that you might not even be aware that you are making. I repeated the word “out, out, out” above not just to illustrate one of my own repetitions in this exercise, but to show that I associated that pause in thought to the thought that came after it – while I was going “out, out, out” my mind settled on the physical body for my next statement. This means I was thinking not just out, but outward, the outside, out of my own head. That’s a comma splice, I think.