Tag Archives: inspiration

Harvesting Stories

Put your pen to the paper, right now, and think up a story. Use your imagination. Shouldn’t this be easy for a storyteller like you?

Maybe, but only if you know how to go about it. There’s a common misconception that storytellers invent their stories, when in reality we are only translators. We take in and observe the details of life—the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, memories, reactions, expressions, and connections—and write from experience. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves are nearly unrecognizable compared with our own experience, but deep down, in thought or in theme, even our fiction comes from the heart.

Stories are harvested more than created, like a fruit salad. The ingredients may come from many different places, but they’re certainly not conjured up out of nothing. If you find yourself unable to “think up” a story (or unable to bring a fruit salad into existence by sheer willpower), that doesn’t mean you’re out of creativity! It means you need ingredients for your salad. Focus on what you have: memory. And write what’s important to you.

For more ideas about writing from your experience, check out this great little article by Richard on CreateSpace. But before you go, take a minute and put yourself back into a memory. Harvest the details, and write!

Advertisements

Only One Story

I’ve long been a proponent of cranking out words and upping your word count. That’s what writers do, right? Keep writing, and you’re bound to come up with something good among all those keystrokes.

This approach definitely works sometimes and for some writers, but there are other approaches too, and these can be refreshing. I was talking with a writer friend recently who reminded me that some writers have a limited number of stories inside them. Indeed, many authors like Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame only published one book, and found success.

It was a relief to me to consider the idea that a writer has a limited number of stories to tell. After my first NaNoWriMo success, I’ve been disappointed with my other attempts partly because I see myself telling the same story all over again. But perhaps this isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s because that one story is my story. Maybe it’s my only story. And that’s all right.

Lesson of the day: don’t force it. Sometimes, forcing a story or word count is helpful, but in the end, writing has to feel natural to read natural. You don’t need to write a billion words to be a successful writer, unless that’s your thing. Only one story told well, in a way that pleases you, is enough.

Write it Out

When the clouds have gathered and the sun won’t shine
and the power’s gone
and thunder is rumbling
grab a pen
and write it out.

When everything sparkles with new fallen snow
a million diamonds
cleaner than stardust
grab a keyboard
and write it out.

When seagulls take off
with your hat
and your lunch
and your sandals
and your notepad
reconsider feeding the seagulls
grab some driftwood
and write it out.

When you have no pen
or paper
or keyboard
or sand and driftwood
go shopping
then write it out.

Write Short and Sweet

Having trouble getting back to writing? Maybe you’re just not sure where to start, or writing a novel seems way too big a project to take on. Life is hectic, no doubt about it. If you’re worried about your word count, try making writing easier for yourself. Writing short and sweet is both easier than writing long (and sour?) and it’s good practice for getting your idea and message across in a short amount of time and space.

Have a novel to write? Try starting with 500 words. Have a message to get out there? Maybe try 200. Have a seemingly unbeatable word count to tackle? Every finished manuscript begins with a few keystrokes.

Write short, write sweet, have fun! Your unique perspective deserves to be heard. And let yourself go when the words are flowing out. Many writers make their craft harder for themselves than it needs to be, but at its core, writing is as easy as a kid drawing on the sidewalk, as simple as yesterday. Yes, it can take thought and effort and nose-to-the-grindstone work… but not today.

Just type the keys and let memory and imagination flow.

Here Comes November

There are only a few days each year when Autumn’s leaves are burning up and still on the trees. Summer is hanging on, but in a month or two, it’s going to be cold and grey and gloomy.

That’s novel weather.

Fellow NaNoWriMo adventurers, whip out your pens (if you’re really actually going to try writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days by hand), keyboards, and thinking caps. It’s time to imagine the possibilities! Not just that, but live them through the characters you bring into existence and tag along with as they live out their lives on your page.

Write your novel.

Inspiration & Originality: An Interview

   You’re a writer. What, or who, inspires you most?

The one thing that never fails to pull me out of a writing rut is the magic of a favorite story. These stories have a life of their own—they pick me up and make me forget and make me care, and remind me why I tell stories. Books, movies, plays, even music can do it. And once all that greatness has seeped into my thoughts, it’s bound to come out in my writing.

   Shouldn’t you be worried about originality?

No. You’ve heard that all the great stories have already been told. Take Star Wars, the original Star Wars. That was far from original. George Lucas took a good helping of his storytelling from ancient mythology and The Hero’s journey. C. S. Lewis did that too. These authors were inspired by classics, and created new classics that really aren’t new.

Don’t worry about originality, worry about authenticity.”

The point is, if you’re a writer, you need something to aspire to. That’s inspiring. Stories to remind you why you love stories, that pick you up and blow you away and leave you changed. You’ll absorb elements from them, and I think that’s great. What more could you ask for than having the quality of your writing approach that of your heros?

Worth Waiting For

DSCF5929sThis little plot of soil has every type of wildflower you could think of growing on it. Except, there are no flowers yet. No blossoms. But green leaves and stems and vines are everywhere, sprouts and shoots that soak up the sun and look as if they could grow into towering giants.

DSCF4737sOne bud opened before the mower came. Small and red as rubies, the ragged petals unfurled, the light caught in its throat, and it sang to the sky. This first flower was also the last.

The Gardener mowed down the flower buds, the vines, every last little bit of life was cut down and died in the sun. Everything, gone. Then the surgery happened. The Gardener pulled out the tender living things by the roots, one by one, every last bit. The soil was raw and tender and exposed. There was no more promise of flowers in the sun, of vines curling around susan stems, of new life sprouting from deep dark earth. The future was empty.

DSCF6124s

It wasn’t too bad until the hoe started coming down, chopping gaping wounds in the earth, removing every vestige of green that had once been so beautiful. When rain came it stung the soil, pounding hard where droplets had once fallen softly, their path slowed by tender leaves and letting the earth drink slow. Now the rain hurt. It carried away crumbs of black. The soil lay flattened, soggy, and hopeless.

It waited. Waited until the sun began to shine again. Waited to warm up. The Gardener took the hoe that had caused so much damage and fluffed up the dark loam. The soil was ready for something. Ready for anything. What was the world waiting for?

Specks dropping in the wind from a hand high above, landing in the bruised and beaten dirt. Seeds that immediately began to warm and send out fuzzy roots. Seeds without competition, that couldn’t grow in the shade of living things, that wouldn’t have lived among the roots of established life. The seeds sprouted. Grew green and tall and pulled the crumbs of soil together, healed the cracks, softened the rain, and then sprouted buds.

These buds weren’t like the wildflowers. This soil wasn’t like the wild loam. Unsatisfied, it was tender, still waiting for new beginnings until the first shafts of yellow peeked from leaf covers and reflected the sun in all her blazing glory. This is what we were waiting for.

DSCF3026s