By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
Happy New Year!
At the start of every year, I like to search for ways to inspire my writing to greater depths. While I'm a firm believer in BIC writing with or without inspiration, it's always pleasant to have a rare burst of creative characterizing, poetic prose, or brilliant brainstorming. (BIC = Butt-In-Chair)
Yes, most of the time, I write without the fairy dust. But that doesn't mean I don't seek ways to inspire my writing with more beauty and meaning. So in an effort to inspire all of us, here are 15 ways to find writing inspiration in 2015:
1. Find things to smile about. We should uncover the hidden joys that surround us. Sometimes we get so busy we forget to take the time to see the small things that can make us smile. Sometimes we forget to laugh at ourselves and with others. Looking for humor in life, helps us better able to add it to our stories (and every story needs lighter moments in some form).
2. Feel pain deeply. When we face difficulties,we can't be afraid to embrace the plethora of emotions that go with it. We should let the pain filter through us fully and not avoid it. We need to cry, weep, feel frustrated, and taste depression. When we do, we can write about those emotions much more realistically in our characters.
3. Go below the surface. We need to top taking issues at face value (whether political issues, world trauma, or personal difficulties). We should peel away the layers and look deeper at problems than we ever have before. This helps heighten our awareness of motivations. And it also makes us better able to weave in eternal truths that will resonate with a broader audience.
4. Study people. Instead of letting people pass us by without taking a second glance, we should slow down and study humanity. We can look at the way people react differently to the same situation. We can analyze their habits, mannerisms, and uniquenesses. And we can study their faces, expressions, ticks, and all of the things that make them different from others.
5. Collect words, ideas, and metaphors. Everywhere we go, we can raise our radars to become more aware of interesting words, ideas, and metaphors. Whether we're in line at the grocery store or at the dentist office, we can be on the lookout for the strange and unique. But we can also try to view the ordinary with new eyes.
6. Make better use of movie time. We all watch movies (and/or TV). And most of the time we simply allow ourselves to be entertained. But we can turn movie time into "work time" by watching more thoughtfully and gleaning ideas for characters and plot. We can pick and choose characters that especially stand out to use as a basis for one of our characters. Or we can take plot twists and use them as a spring board for something in our novels.
7. Listen to inspiring music. Lately I've been listening to lots of piano and cello music (my current favorite is The Piano Guys). The incredibly complex cacophony of instruments surges through my blood. There’s something about beautiful music that restores beauty to our souls and stimulates our moods that then spills over into our stories.
8. Take time to focus on sensory details. A gently floating snowflake, the lustrous velvety fur of my kitty, the creaking of the branches outside my window, the rich aroma of the garlic and sage in the spaghetti sauce. How can we write sensory details in our stories if we don’t stop and experience them for ourselves?
9. Read writing craft books. My favorites are Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, Characters, Emotions, & Viewpoints by Nancy Kress, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. I own these and re-read them frequently. They're dog-eared, highlighted, and full of notes.
10. Read books outside our comfort zone. Over the past couple of years, I've been branching out and reading books in genres that I might not normally read. I can't say that I like each one I read. But I learn something new about writing techniques and story-telling with each book.
11. Study great books. Every time I read great books (award-winning or classical) I usually end up taking lots of notes. I enjoy studying the characterization, plot development, the usage of similes and metaphors, and all of the other techniques. I try to figure out what made the books popular in their day and why they still have a timeless appeal.
12. Make real connections. Nowadays, we spend more and more time behind a screen interacting with people as opposed to connecting in real. While there's nothing wrong with having online friendships (and in fact it can be a wonderful blessing), it can't replace face to face interactions where we're truly able to get to know people on a deeper level. If our primary relationships are shallow off the page, then how can we expect depth in our characters on the page?
13. Try writing something new. I've branched out into writing YA and have found that it has opened my creative juices in a new way. I've also recently written two novellas which has stretched my writing muscles too. When we try new genres, styles, or new techniques, we give ourselves a fresh outlook, even if eventually we go back to the tried-and-true.
14. Read a historical biography or memoir. Even those who aren't historical writers can benefit from reading history, particularly reading biographies or memoirs. I recently read Night by Elie Wiesel a memoir of his experience in German concentration camps. Of course we read so that we don't forget the past and make the same mistakes, but we also learn so much about the present when we delve into the lives of others who've come before us. Such reading enriches our experiences of life.
15. Never fail to ask "What If?" All too often our imagination is turned off in our practical, news-headline dominated world. But we can't forget to dream, be curious, and imagine the impossible. We can't be afraid to be a little crazy, to wander off the path, and to search for rainbows. Sometimes we have to let our imagination get wild and carried away in the first draft. We can always go back and tame and temper our wildness during editing if need be.
What are some other ways YOU find inspiration for your writing?
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