Thanks to the Internet and the rise in indie and self-publishing our choices of reading materials has skyrocketed; there are genres and niches for everyone's tastes and price points -- but as a reader looking outside the traditional publishing system, how do you know what book will really capture your heart and mind?
I think we have a very romanticized notion of being a writer that pervades our culture. I suspect that this notion, this myth of the writer, as evidenced in Anne Dillard's work, The Writing Life, does a disservice to us all. By keeping the making of art to the rarified few who can shirk all responsibility and just painful drink coffee and write (or worse, do shots and write), the whole, this larger teeming mass of people with stories to tell, are excluded. Just as every other profession has some sort of gatekeeper (Bar Exams, Teaching Certs, Nursing Licenses, Accounting Exams), I see this myth of the writer as being our watchman. Only when we break free of this idea can we come into our own.
I would write more if I could quit my day job. I would write more if I had a million dollars. I would write more if I had my own office. I would write more if I had some quiet time away from the kids. I would write more if I took a vacation. I would write more if I knew it wouldn't suck.
As a writer, you think you would be well versed in the power of words to create reality. But instead, we often ignore this lesson as it applies to ourselves. Surely we can cheer on other writers through writer's block, through setting good habits, through the power of revision, but with ourselves, we often disregard the very advice we dispense cheerfully. But I would like to introduce you to this one simple idea: thoughts are things.
The thoughts we have shape our world. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right." My goal for sharing this today is to help you examine the tiny mad ideas you have about writing and publishing with an aim towards revising them. Just as we revise a story, we can revise what we think about our writing practice.
Let's begin with the biggest, tiny mad idea: There are ideal conditions for writing that must be met......
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This exercise asks you to take inspiration from the world of art. Find a piece you like: visit a website, actually go to a museum, look around your house. Then do one of two things: write the story of that piece of art beginning with a description of it, or imagine the character from your novel engaged with that piece of art in some way.
Is it hanging in their home?
Did they see it on a date?
Did they receive it as a postcard?
How do they describe it?
What do they see?
What do they see that reflects their own inner conflict at this moment in the story?
Where does the story go when the image stops?
Write until you have finished the scene.
You can share the results of your exercise in the comments below! Happy Writing!!!
Commit to yourself and to your writing. Like all great self-improvement strategies, they only work if you work it.
Find a time each when you can carve out at least thirty minutes to write for the first thirty days.
Acknowledge where this writing will take place for the first thirty days.
As the year progresses experiment with different times and different places; seek to know more about yourself as a writer, as a person. When is your mind more effective and creative? Where do you feel more comfortable and inspired? It doesn’t have to be a traditional desk or in an office. Think outside your previous writing practice and any writer stereotypes you might have.
Make your writing time sacred; turn off the cell phone, turn off email, hang a sign on the door that you will be back in XYZ amount of time and only knock if there is flood, fire, or imminent death.
Think about music—see if you can write with music; see what types of music help you to get into your flow.
Think about mediating if it helps you.
These exercises are only meant to get the juices flowing; while they add to working on your novel, they don’t seek to replace telling the actual story. This isn’t a how to guide, but more of a what if guide, helping you to dig deeper into your thoughts and your characters.
Approach each exercise with an open mind; this isn’t school—you aren’t being graded. You can choose to tackle the task in any way or form you would like.
Some of these exercises ask you to make lists of information about characters. This may feel like it isn’t really writing. Eudora Welty is said to have never revised her short stories. The reason? She thought them all out in her headfirst. By creating these lists, you prompt yourself to think in new ways about your characters and the situations they find themselves in. By knowing their backstory, you can begin to conceive of their present or future.
Don’t be afraid to follow your fancy. If you really liked one exercise and want to do it again, go for it. If you really hate one, skip it. If you get into a groove and find yourself writing longer than your time limit—go for it. If an exercise turns into a new story or new novel, let it.
Don’t edit while you write. Humans work best doing one thing at a time. Yes, we can multi-task; yes, some of us are really good at multitasking. But this is about getting in touch with your creative side. Critical thoughts about word choice or structure or negative thinking and judging stop creativity dead in its tracks. Just write. Save editing for a different part of the day or for when the piece is in a final rough draft.
Enjoy this. Everyone with a novel inside them wants to let it out. They dream of the day when they will see someone reading their words or seeing their own work on a bookstore shelf. Now thanks to the Internet, this dream is an increasing reality. You can do this. You can write a book.
A popular saying chides that everyone has a novel somewhere inside. These exercises challenge you to take hold of that notion, to unleash that novel, by helping you to establish both a daily writing practice and develop the characters and content needed to bring that novel to life.
What is your story? What adventure/romance/mystery/epic have you always wanted to capture on the page and share with others? Have you listened to advice on writing that says to be any good you have to write every day? Do you wonder how you will ever find the words?
This series of writing prompts is designed to do three things:
A.) Get your seat in the chair.
B.) Turn your characters into people you can taste, touch, feel, hear, and smell.
C.) Inspire you to keep writing and set goals for your practice.
These exercises are not telling you to just write this or do this, but instead they provide you with a scenario and some direction. Some of the prompts are quite literal; others are figurative, but all seek to have you look at the novel inside of you in a new way.
Even if the writing you do for these exercises doesn’t make its way into the finished product of your novel, the knowledge you gain from drafting your characters in detail will engage your prose in new and dynamic ways and perhaps prompt new stories for you to tell and provide new directions for your writing to travel in.
By far and away, the biggest tool this book offers is to help you set a practice of writing. They say if you do anything for thirty days in a row, a habit forms. Imagine writing everyday for a year. With interesting prompts that stretch your creative process, you and your writing will be rewarded for your daily efforts in many ways.