Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to Start

I had a wonderful question from a visitor to the blog not long ago, and I thought it would be a good topic for general discussion, since I'm sure you all have some wonderful ideas to share as well!  Here is the question:

I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?

I honestly don't have this problem that often, but it does happen every once in a while.  Here are my thoughts:

1) I don't get regular times to sit down and write (unless I fight and cry about it :) so I save up all of my ideas and thoughts until it's time to write.  I'm a pencil and paper gal.  I have a notebook for every novel and when I have an idea I hurry to jot it down so it doesn't slip my memory.  Then when I do actually get time to write, I have a bunch of scenes sketched out, and a ton of ideas and thoughts waiting for me.  I can pick one and dive in.

2) I read "The Weekend Novelist," upon recommendation from some writer or agent somewhere along the way.  Now, I admit there were only a few ideas from that book that I've found useful- but they were gems.  I think the best thing I've ever done is "spinning down the page."  It primes the pump so to speak, so even if you are feeling uninspired it gets you going.  The point of the exercise is to unlock the creative, non-critical part of your brain.  You basically picture a scene, think of descriptive words, emotions, sights, sounds, etc. and write them down on the page.  No complete sentences, no punctuation, just free-flow thoughts down the page.  For me this really works.  I can outline a scene and write it right then, or even come back to it later.  You don't need to put down the details, just the feeling of the thing. This is also good like I mentioned above, when I'm "hot," but just don't have the time to sit down and write. All the emotion is there for me later when I can come back to it.
There are also about a kajillion other writing exercises out there.  Maybe doing a warm-up exercise would help spark your creative mind. 

3) Maybe you need a primer.  I would try a short walk, some music, a drink (something warm and cozy, or cold and refreshing depending on the mood), a shower, etc.  Usually ideas and scenes come to me when I'm not  at the computer.  When my mind is allowed to wander, that's when I see vivid things or imagine interactions between characters (yep, spending time with the people in my head :)

4) Maybe you need to switch projects.  I heard a bit of fabulous advice from author Diana Gabaldon on avoiding writer's block- just move on.  If something is stuck, move on to something else until it comes unstuck.  Let your subconscious work on it for a bit and then things will flow.

5) Maybe you need a break.  If I've worked overtime at my day job, had a really awful evening with my three-year-old (who is going on 16, I swear!), and just feel terrible, then nothing is going to flow.  And if it does, it's forced.  Sometimes we all need a break.  Take the time to sleep or take a hot bath and try again when you're not feeling terrible.  You'll probably be way more productive. 

Does anyone else have ideas?  I'd love to hear what others do when this happens.

Tell me about it, Barry.

1 comment:

  1. I often have this same problem when I'm writing on my lunch break. I haven't found a reliable way around it yet.

    However, when I'm having a writing day, I go out to someplace where the juices tend to flow without much provocation. I hit the local 24-hour dive diner, get my bottomless cup of questionable coffee, put my headphones in, and go.

    For me, my environment plays a big part in how easy it is to write.


I'd love to hear your musings :)