1. Carry a notebook EVERYWHERE. This is the most important habit I have ever learned. Really, I don’t know what I would do without my notebook. For you, it could be a little Moleskine, a home-made and stapled together grouping of old used papers, a mini composition book, WHATEVER! Get something you are comfortable writing in ALL THE TIME. I’ll wait right here while you get it………..Got it? Ok, good! Now, I want you to write down everything you see, hear, think or feel that might have any benefit to you as a writer. That weird conversation you overhear at the diner about the benefits of one type of adult diaper over another, WRITE IT DOWN. You’re on the train and you see a beautiful piece of graffiti tagged along the wall of some unknown building, WRITE IT DOWN! Every epiphany, story idea (no matter how small and basic), every curiosity and thought that passes through your brain should be included in this notebook. Before you know it, you’ll be well into your second notebook. Anytime you are in need of inspiration or a quick story idea, turn to your notebook (which should ideally be in your back pocket, purse, somewhere close) find something that strikes you, and run with it! You can do anything you want with the information that your book contains, aside from this…DO NOT EVER ERASE, CROSS OFF OR RIP OUT ANYTHING IN YOUR BOOK. You could very well be deleting a masterpiece!
2. Write the stories of the people around you. This second tip can and should go hand in hand with the first. Be curious! Instead of just picking up whatever it was that you just had to have, at midnight, on a trip to Walmart, pick up a story! Watch the people around you. Wonder who they are and what has brought them to this exact moment, in front of you. Their pants are hiked up to their chin, lime green Crocs stained with months of shuffling and shames. Don’t you want to know their story? I know I do! I want you to be the one to tell it to me. Write down the details you can see, hear and sense, in your notebook, and as soon as you get home, give them history and or future! Perhaps they are actually one of the latest Archeological pioneers, back from a trip to Turkey where they discovered the remains of the oldest known fossils in existence. For all you know, they are, and the details you put to their life are the very building blocks of imagination and story creation! With your idea-filled notebook in tow, you can do this one anywhere and at any time, with anyone you want!
3. Free Writing. Here’s another one that I really love. Free writing is often the easiest way to get a story out in the least amount of time. Give yourself a time goal, and write. No distractions, no stopping, no eating, maybe a little water (can’t have you keeling over mid-sentence), and ABSOLUTELY NO EDITING. The goal with this exercise is to just see what comes out. More often than not, as creatures searching for perfection, we edit out so many of the amazing ideas we have, until they rarely resemble our initial thoughts. Sometimes this results in something wonderful, but the reality is, we have no idea what any of it could have been because we never gave ourselves the chance to explore the possibilities. Do yourself a favor and give this a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of the directions your normal thought process takes when unburdened by the censors of logical thought and editing.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you might have trouble with concentration, motivation or flipping the kill switch on that part of you that just wants to edit the shit out of any sentence or idea that you create. I do have a solution, and I’m telling you, if you use it, it’s nearly foolproof. In my previous post, The Two Applications That Saved My Sanity (Really!), I discussed briefly how I was able to overcome my constant editing obstacles (the biggest deterrent of free writing), with the help of an amazing little program Write Or Die by Dr. Wicked. I won’t go into all the details of the program here, but take a look at the other post, and see if it’s not something that can help you out! To give you the short of it, Write or Die will not allow you to save until a word goal or time goal has been reached, will play annoying sounds if you stop writing (until you start again) and on it’s most hardcore mode will even begin deleting your words one by one until you start writing again. This is an intense way to go about it, but one that I had to adopt.
I recommend starting off at the lighter end of the spectrum and just set aside a fifteen minute block of time, today, and just free write. Get it all out and see how you feel. Then you can go back and edit it if you’d like.
4. You can’t go wrong with prompts. A creative writing prompt is an idea, snippet of information or simple sentence that someone else provides you with for the express purpose of building off of it and seeing where it goes. You can follow them directly, build onto them, take away from them and even ignore it completely and go where your mind takes you. The whole point is to use it as a springboard to an idea, any idea. Perhaps an example will help.
Example Prompt 1 – Write about a time when you felt used.
Using this example, there’s an infinite variety of directions you could take your story in. You could take this literally and write about an actual event in which you felt used. This is the most direct route, but remember, you are writing fiction so you don’t want to copy word for word something that’s happened to you. Have fun with it, turn it around. Add details that would never have happened in your situation. Maybe you decide that you don’t actually want to write about a time you felt used at all. Perhaps you’d rather write about the thing that would make you feel used the most, were it to happen. Going even further, you don’t even have to stick to the prompt at all. A creative writing prompts main goal is to get you writing. If you read the sentence “Write about a time when you felt used.” and suddenly think of what would happen if your childhood pet Parakeet Prince had lived forever, roll with it. You’re writing, and that’s what matters most.
There are droves of writing prompts available across the internet, and eventually I will share with you some of my favorites!
5. Take a walk, be active. Here’s another one that is pretty simple. So simple that many of you will often not even consider it. This is my go to method for story creation. Again, notebook in hand, I head to one of my few favorite local wooded trails, slip in my headphones and wander aimlessly. Find a place you love, outdoors, and be there! Allow your brain to wander as well. Think about everything that comes to mind. Try to lead your mind in the directions you wouldn’t normally allow it to go. Often times this is where the best content will come from. WRITE IT ALL DOWN! Through the past three creative writing classes I have taken, this is how I generated EVERY story idea. A calming two hour walk through the backwoods has brought out more of my creativity than any amount of hours I’ve ever spent sitting in front of a computer or pad of paper “brainstorming”
I was always wondering why this was such an effective method, and it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I might have found the answer. An article from The Huffington Post, speaking on the effects of regular exercise on the creative thought processes, seems to allude to a significant correlation between exercise and “improved divergent and convergent thinking”. At it’s most basic, when you exercise, you’re exercising those important parts of your mind that help you develop and relate coherent and creative thoughts. While this article is only based on one study, and I’m not in any way claiming it to be set-in-stone fact, It feels right to me, and that’s all I’m really worried about. Whatever it is, this works for me, many of the people I know, and I am positive it can work for you too! The worst case scenario is that you go for a long walk, enjoy the outdoors, and come home with a fresh, clear mind that you can apply to prompts or any other story generation idea you prefer!
Stay tuned for more Quick and Easy Ways To Finding Your Next Fiction Masterpiece (Part 2)
Have any quick and easy tips to share with your fellow writers? Message me below and I may just include your ideas in the next post! (Attributed, of course!)