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Putting on my story-filter

Cheryl's Musings: Putting on my story-filter

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Putting on my story-filter

There’s this thing I do, now that I’m a “real writer.”* I do it without even noticing, most of the time. I do it when listening to the news, while watching kids joke around at the bus stop, even when I’m on a romantic date (sorry, sweetie….it’s the danger of dating a writer.)

What is this thing of which I speak?

Here it is: I put on my story filter. 

A story filter is a mindset, a pair of mental glasses through which I view everything around me. It’s the filter that takes a snatch of conversation and directs it to the part of my brain that’s working on a YA novel; it sends the image of a kid with straight blond hair, sunburned cheeks and a gap-toothed grin and files it as a possible picture book character. It takes the NPR news story heard in the car and slots it in with possible article ideas, and it analyzes the heartsickness of losing a treasured necklace so I’ll know how to describe that emotion later, when it’s felt by my character.

I feel as if the world is my textbook and I’m constantly studying. These tidbits, recorded in my memory or, if I’m lucky, in a journal or on a scrap of paper, give me a rich source of ideas when I sit down at the page.
So is this story-filter automatic? For me, yes, it is now something I do automatically—but it hasn’t always been. At the beginning, it was something I had to cultivate. Something I had to practice. But if you do…well, it does cause rather odd thoughts to slip through your head at random moments, but it also helps you to notice all those little details that will bring your writing to life.

So go ahead: start developing your own story filter! If nothing else, it gives you a great answer for the next person who asks you what you’re thinking!

:) Cheryl

*By “real writer,” I mean a writer who’s convinced herself that that is what she is, who actually admits that’s what she does for a living, and who devotes regular, consistent time to the practices of writing, marketing, and continuing education. Publication is nice, too, but not essential. Just in case you were wondering….

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