Wednesday, March 31, 2010

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing


I figure if I write a post like this I might inspire myself as much as anyone. So here goes. 5 ways to jumpstart your (and my) writing:

1. Explore new genres and forms. For a while now I've felt a little stunted in my writing. Especially poetry. So I'm trying new forms like sestinas, sonnets and pantoums (to come, I promise).

I also feel like I've reached a plateau in my non-fiction efforts. Currently, I'm revising a larger work, and my first order of business has been to study fiction.

In fact, I just bought James Scott Bell's book Plot & Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish. Happily (or sadly, if you hate deletion), Bell's fiction advice is leading me to restructure my format, drop several thousand words, and think like a novelist.

I'm also looking forward to Jeff Gerke's upcoming book Plot vs Character: A Divided Novelist's Guide to Writing Great Fiction.

2. Meet cool writers. There's nothing like meeting new writing friends to remind me that I'm not alone in feeling the occasional setback and need to grow.

This week I re-met Merrie Destefano, the author of How to Draw Zombies: Discover the secrets to drawing, painting, and illustrating the undead

We had a crazy fun time, along with her friend Rachel Marks. Hearing their stories of pushing-through the hard times, I felt inspired to push through my own down writing moments too.

3. Read a great writing book. I'm WAY excited that the next book club selection at HighCallingBlogs is going to be The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. Maybe you can join us too (and that will give me more cool writers to get inspired by).

4. Stop reading for a week. I know this is a radical suggestion. But the week I stopped reading I found two fire poems hidden inside me, that I'd been struggling to find for a long time.

5. Get physical. In Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, John Medina notes that physical activity significantly increases cognitive activity.

As far as I know, writing is a cognitive activity. :) On the anecdotal side of things, I can say that when I was running at night (sigh, I haven't done that in a while), I was absolutely bursting with writing ideas.

What are your favorite writing jumpstart techniques? If you want to post them, I'd be happy to link to you. Or we can just go out for a midnight run together.

Pigeon on the Can photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, I'm excited about that book club book. Might have to participate this time! :) And I always come up with the best descriptions of things while I am out for a walk. Of course, by the time I get home I can't remember a word of them, but I hope it stretches my brain out a little bit just to think them. Ha! :)

10:17 PM  
Blogger Louise Gallagher said...

Oh my! Thank you for this inspiration. Brilliant light in my morning before .... I write :)

9:08 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Overby said...

Morning zip with my coffee. I came home determined to read outside my comfort zone. Merrie's book is the first on my list. [sweating]
Inspiring post. Thanks. I would love that to be the next book club pick.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Lyla Lindquist said...

Denying myself the read for a week...a tough proposition yet I can see where it could be effective for creating some room. Thanks for the suggestions.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

I can't wait to see where your words take us...

I just know it will be hard to breathe.

Loving you and your work and your words...
All's grace,

12:04 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

(and I have that book! Thanks to the kindest of friends! Can I join the book club too?)


All's grace,

12:05 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

This explains why I get such great ideas whilst out running. Sadly, they all seem a bit less exciting when the endorphins calm down! Oxygen deprivation to the brain, I think.

Good ideas here. I'm in need of some new ones.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The next book club selection sounds perfect. I'm in .

and running let's me mull over things, as does sitting outside , in any weather, just listening and looking.

but I'm only a learning writer, so I am going to be listening and mulling with undivided attention right here.

thank you.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Corinne Cunningham said...

Wonderful advice! I've been in a slump this week and need to take your advice.

4:44 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

such good advice! I wish I was as sensible and practical as these suggestions suppose a writer would be ;-) As for meeting cool writers - well, that's how come I hang about on the internet so often, so I meet cool writers (if I say "like you", will you think me a horrible flatterer? I would mean it as truth!)

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I could even PRETEND I might get to the book club... however, must say, evening runs are awesome... (or walks)

a wandering through a labrynth, and rythm motions... rocking with your eyes closed for example.

but I should be the LAST to comment on THIS sucbject! Oh my!

3:27 PM  
Blogger ed c said...

Thanks for this list of ideas. If I may add one, my wife purchased me a copy of Creating Fiction. It's a great collection of essays from MFA program teachers on writing.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Jenn Calling Home said...

Oh, I'm so glad you're writing about...writing. Thanks for the book recommendations, and I may have to check out the book club book. Looks good. I love Poem Crazy. Poetry is the genre I turn to to get out of a rut. Come to think of it, maybe I need to do that again.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Jim Martin said...

L.L., I like this list. In particular, I have found doing something physical helpful. Even just doing things that are totally unrelated to writing can be very helpful. Anyway, these are great suggestions.

7:25 PM  
Blogger ~beautyandjoy~ said...

This is a great list and I completely agree with running being so inspiring. I just read "What I talk about when I talk about running" and loved his thoughts on it, too. Thank you for this.

12:36 AM  

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