The Usefulness of Writing Exercises
Creating Characters: Compassion and Conflict

The World is Your Writing Oyster

Oyster_shell_pearl_265851_lA couple weeks ago I was greatly taken by a lecture I heard about the writing life, given by Helena Kriel at the Spalding MFA spring residency.

The talk was, essentially, about how everything in the world feeds into our writing lives and our writing--if we are but present to the world.  Further, when we are being present, seeking our deepest thoughts within and putting them onto the page, we are involved in the same sorts of transformation that sages and gurus and lamas and mystics have sought for millennia.

Being Present

Ever since I heard this lecture, this is what I have strived to do.  I have done my best to be present during my writing time, and not give in to the distractions of email, Twitter, or news stories on the Internet. And beyond that, I've really been working on an awareness of how I interact with the world when I'm not writing.

No Such Thing As Boring

For instance, when I'm doing something "boring."  I put that word in quotes because I truly believe that boring is all in the mind of the person being bored.  Instead of giving into the boredom, I try to find something in front of me that makes the event interesting.  This could be the smallest of detail--a splash of red geranium while weeding the garden, a jet flying overhead that causes me to wonder where its headed and who is on it, that person walking by with a scowl on her face.

Cultivating Ideas

It is this kind of attitude that will feed a constant flow of ideas into your writing.  And ideas are the lifeblood of the creative person, aren't they?  We need a constant flow of them, not only for new projects but for our WIPs.  Ideas come from the world around us joining with what's already within, and for this to happen one must be present, observe and practice deep listening.

Other Ideas for Ideas

--Keep an idea book.  Because if you don't write them down, they will disappear.  Ideas are sneaky creatures that like to be recognized.  I find my ideas tend to get lost if I write them only in my journal, so I keep a spiral notebook devoted solely to ideas.  I swear, once I close the cover they breed and have babies--which is exactly what you want to happen.

--Put them on the page, nowhere else.  This is not true for everybody, but it's true for a lot of creative people--talking about ideas dissipates them.  They belong on the page, not in conversation with your spouse or BFF.  Ideas are fragile and need care and tending, which is best done with pen and paper.

--Let them flow.  Ideas tend to morph.  If we exert too much control over them, say, not letting them go in a new direction when they want to, they stagnate.  You may think your book is really about robots but your idea mind suddenly says its about aliens.  Go with it.  You may get back to the robots eventually.  Or not.

When you cultivate an attitude like this, and take good care of your ideas, the world truly will be your oyster--you'll be inundated with so many ideas you won't know what to do with them.  And not only is this wonderful for your writing, it's an amazing way to live in the times when you're not writing.

What's your best tip for cultivating ideas?

Photo by roym.

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