Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing, When Not Writing

A graphic designer friend yesterday asked of her Twitter followers: "How do you stay creative when not at your desk?"

That's a good question.

As writers, how do we keep writing, even when we're not clacking words out on our keyboards?

For me, I have various ways of coping with not writing:

I narrate in my head

As I go about my everyday life, which can sometimes be boring to the point of tedium, I try to "write" what's going on as it's happening.

"I watched my 22-month old climb the stairs by himself, without holding on to anything. He couldn't have done this last week. Next week he'll do even more. I'm afraid to blink, afraid in that minuscule space of time he'll go from being my sweet toddler who loves to cuddle, to a hulking giant of a teenager who dies of embarrassment from my mere existence. So I watch him climb the stairs, and I am proud, and I am terrified."

I notice details, and think of ways to describe them

This is what I responded to my friend on Twitter. Words are a writer's tools, so I'm always trying to come up with new ways to describe the world around me, and saving those thoughts for when I need them later while writing. I watch, I listen, I feel, I smell, I taste.

I watch specks of dust dance in a beam of sunlight, and wonder, is there a better way to describe the dust in the light other than "dancing" or "floating?" Maybe the specks of dust are chasing each other, or popping in and out of existence, or blinking at me. As I think about this, I remember a scene I just wrote, and file the chasing specks of dust away for when I can add that little detail to that particular scene, and in doing so, give it new depth and realism.

I steal things that resonate with me

In my first novel, BLOODSISTERS, I use the line, "I care not" a few times. I totally stole this from "Fellowship of the Ring."

Something about that scene, about the way Sean Bean delivers the line as Boromir, really stuck with me all these years since I first saw the movie and read the book. I love it, I love his inflection, I love the camera angle, I love the way he looks when he says it, and I especially love the phrasing itself: "I care not." That says so much more than the usual, "I don't care." Words are my tools, and exact phrasing is important when writing a character's dialogue.

You know what they say: Good artists borrow, great artists steal.

Pretty much, I'm never not writing. Everything can be inspiration; everything is details I can include; everything is a moment I can steal and translate to the written word.

How do you stay creative when not actually writing/drawing/making music/dancing/paining/sculpting/acting/whatever?

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