Sunday, May 29

Cloudy with a Chance of Brainstorm

Brainstorm n.

1. a compilation of ideas

2. an outburst of excitement

3. an acceptable form of procrastination

There is something I always tell writers: Don't think, just write. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes, that advice sucks.

There is that mindset that writers who want to produce a finish project need to have, and that is to get something down on the page.

"Act now, think later" can work when drafting the first stages of a story, but it's not something you want to do all the time.

I have talked with creative individuals, where writing has become their gloom. They no longer enjoy it. They don't look forward to it, get excited about it, or feel the compulsion to continue.

How did this happen? They forced themselves to write on strict a schedule to the point where it was a chore. An irksome task.

The reason I tell people "Don't think, just write" is because they over-think. They sit there, fantasising about the finished project and the perfection they want to achieve. Just because you don't want to wallow in theories, doesn't mean that you should cut out all creativity and become a writing machine.

There is a solution to the state of gloom-writing. Here is what I propose:

Stop forcing yourself to write. It is time to be inspired once more. Fall in love with ideas and refuel your desire to write.

1. Get a blank non-fancy workbook (so that you do not feel the need to flood the pristine pages with pure perfection) and write a list of your favourite things. Yes, just like the song that a few of you are now cursing me for getting stuck in your head.
  • Who are the characters you enjoy reading about?
  • What genres do you like to read? Gather your favourite books off your shelf and surround yourself with them. Read excerpts aloud.
  • If you could write a character that was the personification of one colour/flower/animal, which would it be and what traits would they embody?
2. Take pictures, find pictures, draw pictures. Visual stimuli is the best way to evoke the imagination. The internet is full of visual art, created by other individuals who express themselves through a different medium than writing.
  • Watch your favourite films. Ones with the stories you like, action sequences that draw you in, and lines which make you laugh.
  • Remember the list you wrote? Now is the time to search those phrases on the internet, and see all the images that pop up in the search engine. You never know what take on something someone might have that inspires you.
  • Explore the outside world and bring a camera. It is hard to scribble as you walk, but a snapshot can be savoured. Just because you don't have use for a particular image right now, doesn't mean that it can't provoke a story idea later.
3. Look for guidance that counters "Don't think, just write." Find words which stir your enthusiasm for writing, rather than making you feel inadequate.
  • Read books on writing. Books which remind you of all the things that used to excite you. The strengths you want to achieve and the goal of a completed piece of work.
  • Turn to other writers. Not for a kick in the pants but for a little bit of fun. Discuss what you like to read, and what are some things that you find lacking in other people's writing that you wish to surpass.
  • Create games to play and just get silly. Write a mad lib or create a questionnaire that you fill out as though you were a specific character.
The best thing to do, when your writing is making you feel grey and tedious, is to take some time to brainstorm and take things in rather than trying to pump things out like a little literary factory. If you want to be a machine, make sure that you are not grinding on nothing. Feed yourself with plenty of imagination and enthusiasm.

Brainstorming really is the acceptable form of procrastination and a necessity for the successful writer. Make sure you dance in the rain and splash in a few puddles. Don't just hang yourself out to dry.


Anonymous said...

I will be following this advice in the coming days(and today). Thanks very much!

Emma Michaels said...

Great advice! Now I want to do a mad lib!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this!