Think about this: when you're at your desk working, what you're writing is not just what's coming out of your head at that given moment. It's an amalgam of all you have experienced, felt, touched and smelled. You are drawing on the well of your life experience. Notes choreographer Twyla Tharp in her excellent book, The Creative Habit, “Creativity is more about taking the facts, fictions and feelings we store away and finding new ways to connect them. " But the material in the well didn't come out of the blue. In one way or another a writer is constantly filling the well by doing things, having experiences and noticing everything around her. It's easy to lose track of it, though-you can forget that you haven't pouring anything in in a while and you can find yourself running on empty. I've been guilty of that myself. So how do you refill the well? Here are a few suggestions based on what I've done in the past. Hopefully it will help you to see how you can best fill your well.
Reading Let's start with the obvious-reading great writing. I once heard that if a writer is stuck or has writer’s block, it’s because he or she hasn’t done their homework and for a writer, homework is reading. Reading reminds you of what's possible with language; it broadens your mindscape and encourages you to find the next level for your work. When you're reading something truly beautiful it can be downright inspirational. The first page in Anita Shreve's Fortune's Rocks does that for me. She captures the essence of desire so simply and with such power that I know I want that for my writing. Don't be intimidated-know that you and the writers you read are all working the same craft. .
Talking to Other Writers Writing can be a lonely career so community is very important. Though I know this to be true I'm still struck by how much energy and motivation I get from conversing with other authors. I envy the artists of the past who often congregated in salons and discussed their work and lived fierce rivalries and pushed themselves to create great stuff. While such salons no longer exist it is possible to build a semblance of one in your life. When I lived in New York City it was easier to make such connections. Now that I live in the country I have to be more active about it-I have to pick up the phone to talk to a fellow writer or hop a train to attend a friend's book signing event. What can you do to build your writing community?
Going to Museums I've always been fascinated by artists and their creative process. When I see a beautiful painting I feel I can almost hear a story or a piece of music connected to it. It just moves me in that way. So I make time to visit museums even if it's to view only one painting. It used to be one of my favorite lunchtime activities when I lived in the city. I would schedule a “creativity date" with myself and go to a museum or a gallery. Of course I'd take a notebook as well so I could jot down whatever words came to me. Museums may not be your thing, but I throw this out there in case you haven't tried it. You might surprise yourself.
Listen to Music You already know music can put you in different moods-what about mining it for inspiration too? Let's say you're trying to create an emotion of loss, desire or loneliness. I would suggest you connect to a song or piece of music that perfectly evokes that emotion for you. If you feel it you can write it-and you will write it much more effectively than if you were trying to create the feeling from scratch. If I want to evoke a feeling of wildness and dissatisfaction and wanderlust I'll listen to Bruce Springsteen. If I want deep, almost desperate love? Melissa Etheridge. The classical piece Bolero inspires drama and desire. Jazz, especially Miles Davis tunes, evoke a raw sexuality and sometimes a regal beauty depending on my mood. Connect to the music, connect to the emotion and you'll connect to it in your writing. Watch Plays, Movies or Even “Gasp!" TV
Since writing good dialogue is a challenge for me I love going places where I can hear great dialogue spoken. To me it's like music or learning a tune. Once you hear it, it's easier to write it. I recently attended two August Wilson plays for this purpose: Two Trains Running and King Hedley II. I also love the screenplays of Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) because his dialogue can be fast and funny. And television? Yes, I know, the experts say if you're ever going to finish your book you have to give up TV! But there can be excellent writing on TV. For years I was mesmerized by Aaron Sorkin's work on The West Wing. It was the only show that was “appointment TV" for me. He drew appealing, complex characters and they spoke with prose that sometimes was just magic al. When you have the opportunity to take in writing like that on the tube, don't miss it!
These ideas should be enough to get you started. Ideally you'll have many creative inspirations flowing through your life all the time so you'll never find yourself at the desk with your well empty. Here's to a beautiful rain.
© 2007 Sophfronia Scott Author and Writing Coach Sophfronia Scott is “The Book Sistah" TM. Get her FREE REPORT, “The 5 Big Mistakes Most Writers Make When Trying to Get Published" and her FREE online writing and book publishing tips at http://www.TheBookSistah.com
© 2006 Sophfronia Scott
Author and Writing Coach Sophfronia Scott is “The Book Sistah" TM. Get her FREE REPORT, “The 5 Big Mistakes Most Writers Make When Trying to Get Published" and her FREE online writing and book publishing tips at http://www.TheBookSistah.com
Sophfronia is also author of the bestselling novel, All I Need to Get By. If you liked today's issue, stay tuned for more because The Book Sistah also offers FREE audio classes, FREE articles, workshops, and other resources to help aspiring authors get published and market their books successfully.
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