Some tips and tricks from the BlogHer ’10 session with Rita Arens http://surrenderdorothy.typepad.com/, Carleen Brice http://welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com/ and Jan Sokoloff Harness http://creativeinstigation.blogspot.com/
All writers face the same dilemma at some point: the well seems dry, no new ideas develop and the page remains blank. These three authors discussed their own tips and tricks for getting into writing mode.
For some writers, physical activity makes a difference. A good workout gets the blood flowing, and with it, ideas. Sometimes mindless, repetitive activities like folding laundry can get the creative side of the brain engaged. Or, having a specific focus on a particular object can clear the mind in a useful way. One example Harness offered was taking a walk and looking only for specific things – like objects that are yellow.
One thing is for sure: it’s important for writers to be able to clear their minds, especially in our multi-tasking society.
Another technique worth trying is stepping back from your life and watching events unfold the way you’d watch television. You’ll get a different perspective this way and can even assume different roles; perhaps watch from the perspective of a kid, then from the perspective of a parent.
Writers can also put themselves in their character’s shoes:
* think about their motivation
* become absorbed in their lives
To generate writing ideas, get out of your comfort zone. Attend writing workshops. Give yourself some parameters, which can include:
* using a select number of colors
* using a select number of adverbs
* using a select number of adjectives
These kinds of writing parameters force you to think a different way. But in the end, each writer should get to know what works for him or her. Most importantly, writers should not place deadlines on themselves (such as â€˜I must write 50 pages today’) but write whenever and however they can.
Make time to write daily
Each writer has a different means of finding time to write. Sneak writing in whenever you can. It might help to write when everybody else is out of the house (if that’s possible!). Write daily and learn what time of day works best for you – daytime when everyone is out of the house, or evenings when everyone is doing their own thing – whatever the time, find that writing space and stick to it. Learning to ignore the phone and email helps, too. As convenient as technology is, the phone, email, Twitter (you can move mountains if you turn off Twitter!), Facebook and the like can be a huge detriment to writing. In order to make writing a priority, many, if not all writers, need quiet. Make it happen!
Forget about the myth that if only you had a lot of free time you’d be able to write a lot. The truth is, even if you had the free time, it would probably not result in more writing (as Brice learned when she did have a lot of free time at one point; she still wrote the same amount as when she worked full-time). Getting to your writing is not about how much time you have but about consistency, and a little bit of writing daily – even 15 minutes – should be your goal.
Once the creative juices are flowing, many writers find that ideas crop up everywhere – during a workout, for instance. In that case, how does a writer recall the idea? Taking a quick break to jot down the idea is one way to ensure that it doesn’t disappear from memory. Or, as soon as you can, call and leave yourself a voicemail. Carry a notebook everywhere and jot down notes.
Quick editing tips
For fiction editing, the questions writers should ask are:
* Are the characters authentic?
* Is the voice/narrative consistent?
* Are the word choices/sentence structure strong?
Look for unnecessary words and eliminate passive voice from your writing. Microsoft Word even has a program that checks for passive voice.
* Passive voice is “it happened to me,” active voice is “I did it.”
* Passive: “She is going to walk,” active: “She walked.”
Also, the first sentence you write tends to be the trigger, or idea generator, for what follows. Often you can go back and eliminate that first sentence.
Writing groups and blogging
Writing groups or writing buddies and writing workshops are important – it’s vital to have people who can objectively critique your work. Writing can also be a lonely occupation so these are great ways to connect with others who understand what you are trying to achieve and can offer support and feedback. Blogging regularly can also help with writing skills, once writers get beyond writer’s block or the internal editor that prevents them from writing anything at all.
Your blog can also be a great testing ground for writing in another voice and seeing what connects with readers. Don’t label your writing â€˜bad’ or â€˜good,’ but experiment with writing styles as a way for you to learn. The key is to be authentic, because readers are connecting with the writer behind the blog, not the blog itself.
Since blogging offers instant gratification, some writers worry that they won’t write a book. That’s where writing classes and workshops come in; they will give you homework and have you work on writing outside of your blog.
Should you ever censor yourself?
Then there’s the question of self-editing: when and how? People may assume what you write, even if it’s fiction, is about you in some way. Realize that sometimes what you think people will pay attention to is not what they will focus on. You can also explain that what you wrote reflected how you felt at a given time, not necessarily what you believe now. However, if you’re writing something that you would not like people to say about you, perhaps you should not write it. In the end, you have to write for yourself; if you worry too much about offending someone, there’s a good chance you’ll never write at all. Remember that you can tell the same story different ways: with love, or spite (or many emotions in between). Figure out what works for you, the line is different for every writer.
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- OFFICIAL BLOGHER ’10 LIVEBLOG:Writing Lab: Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity (blogher.com)
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