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Getting Ready for Lightning-Bolt Ideas

Cheryl's Musings: Getting Ready for Lightning-Bolt Ideas

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Getting Ready for Lightning-Bolt Ideas

In Friday's post, I wrote about those fortunate instances when ideas jump out of our heads onto the page...and how we'd like to have more of them. Can you cultivate lightning-bolt style inspiration? I think so. You just have to do a bit of preparation and a lot of paying attention. Here are Cheryl's four steps to catching great ideas:

  1. Fill yourself up with life, sensations, experience. You can't write if you don't have anything to say--so make sure you don't spend so much time writing that you stop experiencing the world around you. Make sure to keep recharging your creativity with life, great books, new experiences.

  2. Practice writing. Practice writing quickly, so that ideas have a chance to slip past your internal editor and surprise you on the page. Sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, or BIW (Book in a Week) the first full week of any month. Read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and experiment with free-writing. Write on a deadline. However you do it, though, train yourself to produce words without worrying about things like perfection, writer's block, or whether you're writing the next Harry Potter. (Don't try, by the way. Writing the next HP, that is. It irritates editors.)

  3. Establish a writing practice. This differs from #2 in that you need to practice showing up to write on a regular schedule. And practice writing whether you feel like you have anything to say or not, because usually you'll find that you do have something to say even when you feel like you don't. For inspiration, see Heather Sellers' Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter; or read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird for instruction on writing crappy first drafts. (I know, that's not exactly what she says, but old habits die hard.) Or listen to Claudia Mills speak about her 30 minute hourglass timer, if you have the opportunity. She espouses that anyone can face writing for 30 minutes, and by the time she's spent her required 30 minutes she's usually ready to write more.

  4. Live with your writing. By this, I mean you should look at your story before you go to bed and dream about plot twists. When you pick up your child at school, you should make mental note of the little girl with pencil-thin legs in striped leggings carrying her a pet salamander, to add her to your pool of character ideas. When you fly in an airplane, you should eavesdrop on the interesting conversation in the seat behind you, so you can draw phrasing and mannerisms and word choices to use in your characters' dialog. When your sister-in-law tells you the amazing story of her son, a bat, and a baby blanket, you should file it away in your ideas folder, to inspire future tales. The specifics depend on you--but make writing a part of every moment of your life. Breathe it and dream it and live it--and you'll see ideas all around you.

I guess it all boils down to this: writing is a craft and a lifestyle. Hone the craft; live the life; and the writing will follow.

:) Cheryl

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