Tag Archives | writing inspiration

Amp Up Your Writing With A Travel Mindset

Nashville_skyline_before_earth_hourI'm in Nashville this week, teaching a workshop called From Spark to Story, with my dear, wonderful friend Terry Price.  I used to come to Nashville at least twice a year, sometimes more often, in order to teach at the Writer's Loft, (now called Write. ) But lately the orientations have fallen at the same time that I'm in France, for my Let's Go Write workshops.  So, um, much as I love Nashville, I chose France.

Wherever I decide to go, I love to travel, and it informs and inspires my writing.  (The idea for my just-about-to-be-submitted-to-publishers novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery, was inspired by one of my trips to France.)  I believe travel opens up my brain to all kinds of new ideas and inspirations that I wouldn't find any other way. However, it has come to my attention that some people really don't like to travel.  They much prefer to stay home.  

I get this.  I really do.  After all, to travel is to catapult yourself into the great unknown.  There's the hassle of airplane travel.  And a hotel or motel that might be iffy at best.  Maybe landing somewhere you don't know the language.  You may will say something wrong.  You'll feel like people are laughing at you. The food will be strange, and God only knows what is actually in that dish of stew. 

In other words, it's scary out there, people!  

But if you are the sort who likes to stay at home but you still want to jazz up your writing, I have a few suggestions on how you can apply a travel mindset to your writing.  

 1.  Seek discomfort.  This is the number one reason people don't travel.  Because, as mentioned above, you will have moments of extreme discomfort.  Plain and simple.  In 2013, the first year I traveled to Europe alone, I was terrified.  When last I'd been to Paris, waiters sneered at my feeble attempts to speak French and everyone was rude.  But once I realized that what I was really afraid of was discomfort, my whole attitude changed (and I actually have found the French to be lovely).  So, quit being so damned self-protective and catapult yourself out of your comfort zone.  Since I don't know what your particular comfort zone is, I can't offer any recommendations.  But you know.  I know you do.

2.  Cultivate a different mindset.  Part of the reason travel is so fun is that your usual boundaries and filters are off.  While you might hesitate to talk to a stranger at home, when traveling you might be forced to ask directions of one.  You become fearless because you have to be. You walk long distances because you get stranded miles away from your hotel and you don't know how to hail a cab.  You stay up late because you're having so much fun.  You eat sweets when you usually don't allow yourself to touch them at home.  And so on.  You can just as easily do this at home, it's just that we forget this and get mired in our regular routine.

3.  Seek out new sights and sounds.  Pretend you're a tourist in your own town and go visit new places.  We've got a fabulous Chinese garden here in Portland, and I'm embarrassed to admit that until I attended a wedding there a couple years ago, I'd never been there.  So visit tourist traps. Take part in corny local festivities. Drive to a different part of town, park the car, and walk. Seek out a new coffee shop.  Go hear a band you've never heard of perform.  Sit in a different part of the sanctuary at church.  Even the smallest change can give you a new viewpoint.

4.  Try different food.  Part of the fun of travel is sampling different foods. Food is a portal to sensory stimulation and sensory stimulation is a portal to inspiration.  Bear in mind, much of my recent overseas travel has been to France, where "different" means chocolate croissants for breakfast, Croque Monsieurs for lunch, and macarons for dessert.  Um, yeah.  But, as noted earlier, eating macarons in Ceret, France inspired a whole novel for me.  And I still recall the lamb dinner I ate at a small cafe on the Boulevard Montparnasse, after walking miles and miles on a sore knee. (The wine was damn good, also.) Surely your town has some wonderful restaurants that feature different cuisines.  Try them out!

5. Take your journal and go sit somewhere and write.  (This works especially well if you tend to stay tied to your desk at home, as I do.)  Record what is going on around you.  Write a description of the barista with purple hair.  Describe the dialogue you can hear at the table next door.  Hell, be really brave and strike up a conversation with the people at the table next door.  One of my fondest memories of being in Paris last year was all the people my husband and I met at bus stops, in our hotel lobby,  and on the street–people from Montreal, from Australia, from London, from all over!  There's no reason you can't do the same without leaving home.

6.  Change up your habits.  This is, in many ways, the easiest way to encourage a travel mindset., because most habits involve relatively small things.  But in some ways, it is the hardest, too. Because even though habits are small, they are deeply ingrained.  Here are a few modest suggestions: Drive a different way to work. Take a shower at night instead of in the morning. (Or don't shower at all!)  Go grocery shopping at 7 AM in the morning.  Drink tea instead of coffee.  Drink beer instead of tea. Drive through McDonald's for a burger instead of eating dinner at that luscious 5 star restaurant. Stay up late! Rise early!  You get the idea.

The point of all this is, of course, to shake up your brain and get some new synopses firing, which in turn should get those words flowing onto the page.

As always, I'd love to hear from you.  Do you like to travel?  Does it inspire your writing?

4

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #33

#226  Write about the worst weather you (or your main character) have ever experienced.

#227  After the best weekend ever, your main character now faces Monday morning.  Does she drag her feet and stay suck in memories of the weekend, or does she let the momentum of her wonderful time carry her forward?

#228  When we are small children we spend a lot of time pretending—and then when we’re adults we learn to pretend in different ways.  We pretend we are happy, for instance.  Or we pretend we don’t care.  What does your main character pretend about?

#229  Some people think it is boring, but consistency is often the key to success.  How is your character consistent?  Inconsistent?  What are the results of these actions?

#230  What have you (or your protagonist) had to leave behind in your life?

#231  Knock wood, cross fingers, think things like if I finish loading the dishwasher before this song ends, I’ll get the job, or maybe something like if I don’t step on any cracks all the way to the corner, my new love will call.  These are superstitions.  Does your character indulge in them?  Do you?

#232 When the rains came and washed it all away, she was glad, so glad.

What are you writing? 

 

1

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #30

Here's my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog:

#205 The fog wafted and drifted around buildings and through streets, masking and silencing everything in its path.  So it was a shock when it lifted and…..

#206 Today is President’s Day in the United States, and lot of people (but not all) have the day off.  What holidays does your main character take?  What does she or he do on those holidays?

#207 Waiting….waiting….waiting…Was it worth the wait? Or not?

#208  Some people fear spiders, but snakes don’t bother them.  Others are the opposite—they hate snakes, but spiders are fine.  Which way does your main character fall?  What does this say about him/her?

#209 Procrastination.  Does your main character indulge in it?  How does it affect his life? How does he get himself going again?

#210 Certain objects may hold great significance for us.  They can contain memories, remind us of loved ones, act as talismans against evil, or connect us to our creativity.  Does your main character have a special object she loves? What does it represent to her?

#211 Oh, the glory of it all.

Happy writing! What are you working on?  

1

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #9

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog.  Go forth and write!

#61  The best concert you've ever attended.  Put your main character there.  What's he experiencing? What did he do before the concert?  What will happen after?

#62  Two women are sitting in a tea room, eating delicate scones and petit fours, and sipping tea.  One says, "Did you hear what happened to Belinda?"

The other woman shakes her head.

The first woman leans forward and whispers.

What happened to Belinda?

#63 "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  Albert Einstein. 

We all repeat destructive or silly behaviors.  What bad habits does you main character have?

#64  The worst job you ever had.  What was it and why?

#65  We all have a brush with greatness.  What was yours? Write it out, then give it to your main character and make a story happen.

#66  It's 3 AM in the morning and you can't sleep.  What are you worrying about and why?

#67  Pie or cake, which does your main character prefer?  What are some of her other preferences–spiders or snakes, early morning or late night, ocean or mountains?

That is all for now.  How's your writing going?

4

Writing Inspiration: What Do Your Nerves Tell You?

 

Sanbruno-suburban-catholic-126215-h

Gazing at me may make you feel calmer.

Yesterday I told you I had a kick-ass (one can only hope) post on letting go ready for you. Then I got distracted by the need to write about the Sopa Strike. And now here you are and you're reading a post on nerves.  What gives?  It makes more sense to write about nerves first and then letting go.

At least to me.

So, here's the story.  On Sunday, I wrote up the notes for Session Two of my Make Money Writing class.  I did a dry run. I was happy, I felt ready. 

Nerves

Monday morning I awoke with a vague sense of nervousness and when I thought about it, I realized it was around the class.  Now, I always get a little nervous when I'm presenting a class.  And in this case, a few little nerves are good because they are about me wanting the class to be good, and full of useful information. 

But on this day it was more than just pre-class jitters.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized something was wrong.  So I went back to the notes.  Realized I had to rearrange one section.  And add another.  Did another dry run.  This time I felt peace.

 And the class was great.  (At least, I thought so.)

But this incident got me thinking how often nerves are a signal that something isn't working.  There are nerves and then there are nerves.  And we need to learn to pay attention to nerves.

The same thing happens in writing.  The feeling may not manifest exactly as nerves, but in an emotion closely related.  You may have a vague idea that something isn't right, but you don't know what.  Or perhaps it manifests as an inability to get to the page.

Pay Attention

And here's the deal: that feeling is always a signal that something is wrong.  Always.  It may be something as simple as needing to rearrange and add things, as with me.  Or it could be that the scene you are writing is taking place in the wrong location.  Or with the wrong people.  Maybe it is in the wrong order in your chronology.

So the moral of the story is to always, always, always pay attention to the feeling and try your best to identify what might be wrong.  (Good ways to do this include the usual suspects of meditation, free writing, playing hooky, flopping about dramatically on the couch–whatever works for you.) You'll save yourself tons of time in the long run if you pay attention to your nerves.

Has anything like this every happened to you?

A couple of points of interest:

1.  Jessica Baverstock, of Creativity's Workshop fame, is celebrating her 100th blog post today!  She's appeared in these pages regularly, so go pay her a visit to congratulate her.

2.  I have an interview over at Melissa Balmer's Womeonsocalbikes.org.  Its about "Finding the Female Advocate's Voice," and its pretty cool.

Don't forget to sign up for a subscription to my bi-weekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer.  The form is to the right, and you get a free Ebook, too!

Photo by D.C.Atty, from Everystockphoto.  And check out the cool new feature on Typepad–captions, yay!

 

6

What a Writer Does: Shawn Mullins 2.0

Yesterday, I wrote about attending a private performance by Shawn Mullins.

Guitar_blues_electric_263163_l

I wrote about how, at every concert that means anything to me, at some point early on I get a thrill through the very core of me that means I'm connecting to the music in a profound way.  That thrill is the same impulse that motivates my creativity and so its no surprise that I find myself wanting to write about it.  In that moment, I'm suddenly hyper-aware of how much I'm enjoying the moment, which paradoxically shifts me out of the moment if I'm not careful.

But here's the deal: this is, again, what a writer does.  As soon as I realized that the concert was touching me in a deep place and that I was going to write about it, I started to shape the narrative in my head.  I made a mental note of what he wore and scanned the stage again to imprint the visual in my brain.  Phrases and words started flowing in my mind.  This is usually the point where I'd pull out my journal, or in a pinch, my Iphone, and start taking notes.  But I was in a dark room and couldn't do that, so the notes were mental.   And so I'm thinking:

–How am I going to shape this story?  Is it better to set the stage, start with the build-up, why we were there, describe going in?  Or should I emply a mise-en-scene method and start in the middle of the action?

–What exact words do I use to describe him and the setting so that it will come to life?

–How on earth am I going to remember all this without writing it down?

But beyond that, I was excited because Shawn Mullins is at heart a writer's writer, and encountering someone like that always inspires me.  Some of the themes of his life are themes that I hold dear. As a young man, he lived in his van and traveled around the country, writing in his journal.  I'm a lifelong journal writer myself, and feel a kinship with anyone who gets ideas from journaling.  And Mullins also didn't wait to be rescued, one of Christine Kane's favorite expressions.  By this she means he didn't wait for an agent or a record label to anoint him.  When he couldn't get signed with a big label, he created his own, made his own CDs and sold them out of the back of the van.  More and more, I'm realizing that we need to take the responsibility for success into our own hands.

So those are some writerly thoughts upon seeing a performance that inspired me.  What about you?  Have you been inspired by music to write something? 

*The very cool photo is of an electric blues guitar, which is not really in the same ilk as Mullins' acoustic schtick, but hey, we're talking about musical inspiration in general here, right?  The image is by tvvoodoo and I got it at Everystockphoto.

 

2